In allowing two planning appeals a Planning Inspector has placed significant importance upon the Ministerial Statement of March 2011, ‘Planning for Growth’, which says that the planning system has a key role in ensuring that the sustainable development needed to support economic growth is able to proceed as easily as possible and that the promotion of sustainable economic growth and jobs has to be a top priority. Councils have been urged to have full regard of this statement in their consideration of planning applications.
We recently (20th June 2011) won appeals against two decisions by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council to refuse planning permission for the change of use of a vacant former shop premises within Redcar town centre to either a betting shop or a café restaurant. The Council was concerned that the loss of a shop premises within the “prime shopping area” of the town centre to a non-retail use would harm the vitality and viability of the town centre.
We successfully argued against the Council’s concerns, the Planning Inspector fully endorsing our arguments that neither of the proposed uses of the premises would materially erode the vitality or the retail character of the prime shopping area or the town centre as a whole.
More significantly, however, the Planning Inspector took full note of the Ministerial statement, ‘Planning for Growth’, and the Government’s clear expectation that the answer to development and growth should wherever possible be ‘yes’, except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in national planning policy. The Inspector accepted our argument that the Ministerial Statement provided significant “in principle” support to the appeals and that they will meet the aim of promoting sustainable economic growth and jobs.
Prism Planning has been very busy recently testing out the principles of the Localism Agenda. It is quite clear that once the Localism Bill becomes statute the general public will potentially have a strong mandate to shape their communities through the planning system.
Private developers have been quite cautious of these proposals. It has been argued that some conservative (note the little ‘c’) thinkers will simply become Nimby’s to the extreme – we at Prism have a much more positive outlook on the Bill, and recent jobs have only strengthened our views; let’s look at two which illustrate our point:
We have been involved in a residential scheme in the Haxby Road area of York. The project for affordable housing on the site of a former Co-operative Dairy created quite a stir locally. The Planning Officers recommended the scheme for approval, but during the Committee politics took its course and permission was refused.
During the Appeal it was quite clear that there were no hard and fast planning issues which meant that the scheme should be refused. The Inspector agreed with us and permission was subsequently granted with a partial award of costs.
The second case was closer to home, in Darlington where we are based, and was to a certain extent, a mirror image of that of Haxby Road. It involved the refurbishment of an existing Georgian house, through the development of two subservient homes within its large residential curtilage.
The Council in this case were against the proposals for reasons of conservation and planning policy. However following extensive consultation with local people it became increasingly obvious that the public were in support of the scheme and wanted the application to be approved. Once the day of Planning Committee came around, an army of supporters (and one or two objectors) made their presence known and the officers’ recommendation was overturned by the committee.
The point which I am trying to make is a simple one, the Localism Bill is not a “Nimby’s Charter”. The Bill will not give the public the ability to impose a negative planning agenda. Recent Ministerial Statements have argued that planning needs to be for growth and sustainability and just at these two cases show; if the public want to make a real positive impact through the planning system, they can!