• Sunday Politics show NPPF debate thoughts

    17th March 2013 | News | Claire
  • Conservative MP, George Eustice, insulted half the councils in the south west.  I think he said:  “We can’t keep treating them like children…” referring to them not having up-to-date Local Plans. 

    Of course around one half of councils in England will not have up-to-date Local Plans, but he didn’t mention that. 

    Surely, if one half of all councils in England don’t have up-to-date Local Plans, then something is wrong with the system? 

    Before the NPPF – and the 27 March deadline, councils saved their out-of-date policies in their Local Plans and these would still be given weight. 

    After the 27 March, the NPPF must be the primary document used to determine planning applications and the rubber stamp will be applied to inappropriate planning applications, even more than it currently is now with the five year land supply problem.

    Mr Eustice also claimed that localism was alive and well and if councils could get their Local Plans up-to-date then all would be well.

    Er, not quite Mr Eustice.  What about those councils that are toppling like dominoes on the five year land supply issue, such as EDDC?  A vast swathe of English councils now cannot demonstrate a five year supply of land for housing.  Before the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a five year land supply was important but it didn’t outweigh every other consideration at appeals. 

    Now many councils across the country are unable to control development, thanks to the emphasis (and penalty) the NPPF applies on this issue.

    And what about the Growth and Infrastructure Bill?  That is a shameless attempt to centralise major planning decisions!

    Mr Eustice is right that Local Plans will carry more weight in planning decisions the further down the line they get to adoption, but in December a planning inspector ruled EDDC’s plan as carrying little weight because it was still at a relatively early stage.  It has not yet been submitted to the planning inspector and any examination in public is unlikely to take place for around one year.  IF the plan is found “sound,” which is by no means certain, then adoption could take up to a further year.  If the plan is found “unsound,” which is a possibility, EDDC could be in real problems for a long time.

    I was really hopeful, along with many other people, when I first heard about localism.  What a good common sense concept, I thought.  But it is quite clear now – almost three years into the government’s term, that localism is one great big con. 

    I thought Exeter’s MP (Labour) Ben Bradshaw spoke frankly, clearly and showed a good grasp of the dire planning situation we face.  Although many politicians are happy to comment on this subject, they often tend to either miss the key issues or spin the facts into orbit.

    Interviews were also broadcast with me and John Withrington of Fight for Feniton’s Future, featuring Jayne Blackmore!  Roger’s interview was cut unfortunately, because he gave a really good one.

    Not surprisingly, ex-councillor Brown told BBC journalist, John Henderson, that he wasn’t worried about the new loose (non-existent?) planning rules.

    Here is the iplayer link.  The housing story was on about 40 minutes into the programme. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01r80h1/Sunday_Politics_South_West_17_03_2013/