If this is a correct interpretation (from planning consultant blogger, Andrew Lainton), it means that around one third of local authorities could be at serious risk of a planning free-for-all in their areas.
East Devon District Council will be one of those councils at risk, because its adopted Local Plan became out of date in December 2011. The new Local Plan is still in draft form and is considered to carry little weight in planning terms. Currently, rules allow for authorities to ‘save’ their policies in this situation in order to go on refusing inappropriate development.
However, the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that councils that do not hold an ‘up-to-date’ Local Plan, must put economic growth ahead of every other consideration. The default answer must be yes.
Sadly the Government’s ‘sustainable development’ label is utterly meaningless and totally disingenuous.
It is estimated that that around one third of councils do not have ‘up-to-date’ (no definition of up-to-date is currently available – possibly leading to a high court challenge over this alone)
If the NPPF goes ahead as we expect economic growth will eclipse all other considerations, including environmental and social considerations, which currently must be balanced in any planning decision.
And over half of the English countryside without formal protective designations will be completely unprotected from development. Some protection will remain for Greenbelt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks but it will be weakened.
In East Devon, this means that one third of the district is at risk of a planning-free-for-all. This includes Ottery St Mary Town and the villages in the Ottery Rural Ward, as well as Feniton and much of Honiton. All the land in East Devon west of Ottery will also be at risk. The remaining two thirds of East Devon covered by an AONB designation will experience weakened protections because the cost of building outside the AONB must be a material planning consideration (according to the draft NPPF).
We will see how the NPPF looks when it is published – now thought to be Tuesday 27 March – but I have very low expectations.
The greenest Government ever …? It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
Photo: Countryside at Sidmouth – AONB weakened under the draft NPPF