All posts in NPPF

Prism Planning is celebrating, along with the residents of Hunwick, following a momentous planning decision taken by Durham County Council yesterday. Officers had recommended approval of a proposed change of use of a property in the centre of a village to a children’s home dealing with children with emotional and behavioural issues. Prism gave a strong speech at the meeting of the Planning Committee, pointing out the substantial body of evidence relating to the impact that this proposal would have on the quality of life of village residents in terms of crime, fear of crime and community cohesion. They were supported in their concerns by the Ward Member, Local MP, Chief Constable and Children’s Social Service Unit within the Council. It is not very often that planning officers’ views are overturned by their own Members and even rarer when that disagreement is unanimous. Residents of the village were delighted with the advocacy services provided by Prism. However we understand it is unlikely to be the end of the saga as the applicants have indicated that they are likely to appeal the Council’s decision. It will be interesting to see the views of a Planning Inspector on the matter in the light of the specific advice contained within the National Planning Policy Framework on fear of crime and community cohesion. In the meantime, Darlington residents face a similar challenge to a proposal in their area and attended the meeting to watch the debate.
A Government Planning Inspector has agreed with Prism for the second time regarding a scheme for providing log cabins on a site at Easby, near to Richmond. The Inspector overturned the decision of Richmondshire District Council to allow development on the site for a limited period of time and instead gave a full planning permission for three years to enable the development to progress. This was the second time that Prism had been forced to go to the Planning Inspectorate to overturn the decision of the Local Planning Authority on this site. Initially permission was refused by the Council for the development and granted at appeal in 2010. Due to the complexities of the site and the uncertain economic situation in the intervening period, we sought to use new provisions to extend the life of the planning permission for a further three year period. Most applications of this nature are routinely renewed unless there has been a change in circumstances. The Council decided to only grant planning permission for a twelve month period and gave confusing and unclear reasons why this would be appropriate. At appeal, the Planning Inspector noted that the Council’s reasoning was flawed and fully agreed with all of the points raised by Prism on behalf of our client. In particular, the Inspector noted that the Government intend to give clear support for developments which help to improve the rural economy and that the scheme was and always had been of a particularly high design and well thought out. Because of these points, he had no hesitation in granting permission for a full three year period which will enable the scheme to progress. This is an important decision to have as it underlines the Government’s expectations that permissions will be renewed for a full three year period whenever there has been no change in circumstances and reaffirms the Government’s continued support for the rural economy. This is the second application that we have had approved this week relating to the rural economy – see next blog for a holiday cottage approval in Aislaby close to Yarm.
Eight and a half months after it was first submitted, the Planning Inspectorate have just allowed permission for a hot food take away to extend its opening hours which has made a nice, if somewhat belated Christmas present for our client. The appeal referred to a hot foot takeaway located within a local shopping parade in Redcar comprising a mix of units, including another hot food takeaway, a number of which open later into the evenings. Planning permission was originally granted for the change of use of the property to a hot food takeaway with opening hours restricted to 9.00 am to 7.00 pm hours Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays. Subsequently, temporary planning permission was granted on three separate occasions since 2009 allowing the premises to open until 10.00 pm every day. The temporary nature of the permissions was in order to allow continued monitoring by Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council of the impact of the later opening of the premises. As far as we are aware no issues arose and in January 2013 our client applied for a permanent permission that would allow the takeaway to open until 11.00 pm each day. However, the application was refused by the Council’s Planning Committee and we were engaged to submit an appeal to The Planning Inspectorate contesting the Council’s decision. During the appeal process we were asked to consider a condition the Inspector was considering whereby the takeaway would close at 10.00 pm on Sundays, bringing the closing times of our client’s takeaway in line with that of the other takeaway within the shopping parade. We advised our client to accept the compromise suggested by the Planning Inspector and we believe that this helped in the successful outcome of the appeal. Our client is over the moon with the decision, which has arrived just in time for the busy festive season. As a side note, the appeal highlights the generally appalling situation in the Planning Inspectorate with speed of decision making lagging way behind where it should be for such an important institution. We hope that Father Christmas brings them some additional resources in the New Year to improve the current situation!
Prism have just won permission at appeal for a farmhouse to help a well established farming family continue their business through into the third generation. The case involved a mixed use arable and sheep farm with a growing line in breeding heavy horse hunters at Town Farm, Stillington. With around 500 sheep already on the farm and a developing equine business we were confident that there was a robust case to pursue. However the Council weren’t so sure and employed a national firm of experts to help them assess the case. The Council’s advisors seemingly hadn’t read too much of the National Planning Policy Framework and wrongly advised the Council on a range of key matters. At the ensuing appeal, the Inspector found that both the Council and their experts had wrongly applied national tests in their assessment, being unduly pessimistic as to the labour needs of the holding and critically, had tried to disaggregate the various parts of the farming business. This was a fundamentally wrong approach and Prism’s approach was found to have been correct. The case marks our third appeal win in a row for our specialist agricultural work and has established us as one of the regions leading expert practitioners in this field. Coincidentally it was also our third win in a row for equine related work and shows that it’s not always a good idea to take advice from some of the national firms whose specialist knowledge is not quite so robust when it really matters.
Planning consent has been granted, subject to the completion of a S106 Agreement, for the residential development of a 2 hectare area of land at Low Cragg Hall Farm, Carlin How. The decision was made by members of Redcar & Cleveland Planning Committee on 6th June. The approved scheme comprises a residential development providing 46 family homes in a mix of two, three and four bedroomed dwellings of up to two storeys in height. The development also includes 8 two-bedroomed affordable houses, meeting the Council’s 15% requirement on developments of more than 15 dwellings. The application was submitted in outline form with only the means of access to and from the site and the scale of the development to be determined at this time. The architectural layout for the site was provided by BSBA Tees and this was a big help in getting the permission through the system. Prism Planning co-ordinated the preparation and submission of the application and subsequently negotiated with planning officers. The proposal was not without it’s hurdles since the site lies outside of development limits, Carlin How has suffered periods of flooding in the past and the existing access arrangements were not suitable for the development. However, we were able to argue why the development should be allowed and engaged a flooding and drainage specialist who provided a scheme to overcome the flood risk issue. We also engaged a highways consultant who negotiated a new form of access to the site with the Council’s highways engineers. Councillors welcomed the development as providing a welcome boost to Carlin How and were pleased that the development will include some bungalows. The final vote was unanimous which is most welcome for a site that lay outside the framework for new development. Our client is now looking for a purchaser of the site so please feel free to contact us if you are looking for any opportunities in the area.
The NPPF starts to bite … Local Plan Housing Allocations Two northern councils have run into problems with their core strategies relating to housing land supply and whether they should include an extra 20 per cent buffer of land for homes. The Inspector examining Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council’s Local Plan has suspended proceedings for six months as he said he had “significant doubts” about its attempt to demonstrate an adequate supply of deliverable housing land. Meanwhile, Hull City Council has asked for a six-month suspension of its Core Strategy examination as it has also been challenged by the Inspector over housing land supply. The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says that councils should maintain a five-year land supply with an extra five per cent buffer, although this should be 20 per cent where there is “a record of persistent under-delivery”. In both cases the Inspector has said that a buffer of 20 per cent is required due to past under-performance. It is understood that the Inspectors are basing their assessments on housing completions. This has led some to argue that this is an unfair basis on which to assess Council performance as it takes no account of the current economic climate under which house-builders and not building anywhere near to the number of houses they were before the financial crash. They argue that whilst there may be an undersupply of housing, proper account should be take of permissions that have not been implemented. However form a purely practical perspective, people can only live in completed houses and an unbuilt permission is useless to someone in need. The Home Builders Federation has said that most councils should consider using a 20 per cent buffer as few have delivered on housing and they must be realistic about the types of sites the market can bring forward. The Royal Town Planning Institute has said that the suspension of Wigan Council’s examination was an example of the NPPF biting and showed that councils have to take the buffers very seriously. The thrust of these two decisions leaves developers in an interesting position. Potentially, shortfalls in delivery might open the door to arguments for new permissions being obtained. The arguments to support such positions will usually require specialist help and are not likely to be straightforward. In particular, council annual monitoring reports are not likely to give all the answers and specialist Freedom of Information requests may have to be made to get the evidence needed. As you would probably expect us to say, if you think you might need help with this, contact the team at Prism!

Over 50 people from a variety of backgrounds came along to Wynyard last week to either partake of the excellent breakfast provided by Tilly Bailey and Irvine or to listen to a seminar Prism offered up on the National Planning Policy Framework.

Whatever your views on the planning process, the NPPF is clearly going to change the way that projects are tackled and assessed. Many members of the audience were clearly surprised to find that even though the NPPF is national guidance and even though it abolishes the old system of Planning Policy Statements, the policies in the document might not affect decision making in some areas for another year.

The RTPI, amongst other contributors, wanted a longer transitional period before the new guidance took effect and presumably the 12 month stay is the Government’s nod in this direction. For a while at least, we will have a two tier system: Those authorities that have been efficient and put their plans in place will be able to avoid applying the guidance for 12 months whilst those who haven’t got local plan coverage adopted before 2004 will find themselves immediately caught by its thrust.

The guidance is clearly radical in a number of key areas – the presumption in favour of sustainable development being the most talked about. Others might think the concept of the problem solving planning department is also quite a novel concept! However those contemplating retail development or wanting to build a house in the Green Belt will find the position is pretty much as it was before the NPPF.

There has been a lot of interest in the possibility that barn conversions might once more be coming back to the table although it remains to see how many LPA’s are going to try to reject the principle because it is inherently unsustainable!

More generally we are finding that many LPA’s are happy to immediately take on those parts of the guidance that they feel most comfortable with but are clearly not so keen on taking up the more challenging aspects; particularly where it involves new housing coming forward to meet identified shortfalls.  We suspect that the full impact of the guidance will not be felt until there have been a few well publicised appeal decisions featured prominently in the bi-weekly ‘Planning Magazine’!

Interpreting the guidance, its intentions and its applicability is clearly not going to be easy. Here at Prism we are more than happy to have an initial no obligation chat with you to see whether we can help.

At the end of March the widely debated National Planning Policy Framework was released taking immediate effect as national planning policy.

Since the beginning of the ‘Localism Agenda’ and the ‘Big Society’, Prism Planning has been advising clients large and small on the likely effect of the document. This concluding seminar will discuss what has changed since the draft was released in 2011, and what the transitional arrangements mean for development viability and approval of permissions.

Clients will be automatically invited to the event on the 10th of May, but if you want to come along, please drop us a line via the contact us form, and we will get in touch with further information.

Today has been a quiet day in the office, a time for reflection on the meaning of life and the National Planning Policy Framework that has just appeared yesterday. Yesterday we faced a barrage of phone calls from anxious clients wanting to know how they were affected by the new proposals and whether it really was the developers charter as some wilder parts of the media had suggested.

Mr A, who owns a field in the middle of nowhere in particular was most disappointed that he didn’t have his golden ticket for his new house but for other clients the position seems less clear.

On the one hand we are told that the guidance takes immediate effect and that decision makers should apply its principles straightaway. Yet buried in the back of the document, hidden in the annex is the statement that for 12months from the date of publication, decision makers may continue to give full weight to their old LDF policies, even when they conflict with the new NPPF, provided the ‘old’ policies stem from no later than 2004. 

A number of us who have struggled with the absurdities of ‘One App’ validation requirements will perhaps take heart from the idea that validation lists should be frequently reviewed and that LPA’s should only request information that is relevant, necessary and material to the application. I wonder if that means I don’t have to procure the Air Quality Report sought for a proposed leisure development built just above the high tide mark up the coast from here?

I was pleased to see the continued reference to LPA’s looking for ‘solutions rather than problems’ and the continued emphasis on approval of sustainable developments wherever possible. However from past experience I shudder to think how we are going to get to grips with measuring  and assessing sustainability.

There is interesting and positive clarity on the greater emphasis given to assessing viability and it is interesting to note the reference to mitigation taking into account the need for competitive returns to a willing landowner and willing developer. Now all we need to do is to work out how to use the HCA’s assessment tool and we have got it cracked!

I was also struck by the new definition of Veteran Tree defined because of its great age, size or condition.  This got me thinking to the prospect of a Veteran Planner defined because of its age and circumference…..I certainly think I qualify on both fronts!

I’m sure that as I continue to plough through the guidance there will be more interesting nuggets of new information to delight and frustrate us in equal measure so I’ll keep you all posted with my thoughts.

The long awaited National Planing Policy Framework has been published. You can view the document here, or check back soon for detailed analysis.