Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Saying it's a "material consideration" isn't applying the new planning rules


The Daily Telegraph is again seeking to scare its NIMBY readers about the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF):

Official inspectors, who have the power to approve local developments, were given the fresh guidance by the Planning Inspectorate last week.

 It told them to start abiding by the new draft planning framework, which campaigners fear could lead to unchecked development in rural areas, because it represents the Government’s “direction of travel”.

Terrifying I know. Except that nearly all applications get nowhere near a planning inspector and, more to the point, that isn't what the inspectors have been told. Which is:

“The draft NPPF is likely to be referred to by the parties in current appeal and development plan casework.

 “Whilst it is a consultation document and, therefore, subject to potential amendment, nevertheless it gives a clear indication of the Government’s 'direction of travel’ in planning policy.

“Therefore, the draft National Planning Policy Framework is capable of being a material consideration, although the weight to be given to it will be a matter for the decision maker’s planning judgment in each particular case.”

So inspectors haven't been told to apply the new NPPF but have been reminded that people in the planning appeals process will refer to it, that this is material and that the inspector should use his judgement. And this is important since there is loads of precedent for Bills before parliament being material considerations in planning. Furthermore it is very clear that the weight given to a particular material consideration is wholly a matter for the planner and always has been. And the law is pretty clear (this from the recent Cala Homes ruling in the High Court):

Secondly, the provisions of a draft development plan document progressing through its statutory process towards adoption, even while objections to them remain unresolved, can be material considerations in a planning decision. There is abundant authority to this effect (see paragraph P70.09 of the Encyclopedia of Planning Law and Practice). Thirdly, emerging national policy, for example in the form of a draft circular or Planning Policy Statement, can also be a material consideration

So all that the Planning Inspectorate has done is to remind inspectors of what the law says. That the NPPF is a material consideration is a matter of fact - how much weight is given to it is a matter of the inspector's judgement. The main considerations for inspectors - the rules if you like - remain the current legislation and, where they are in place, the strategic plans of the local planning authority.


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