Gravityscan Badge Winslow NP, Rolleston NP & Sayers Common NP Set New Precedents « Alrewas Neighbourhood Plan

Winslow NP, Rolleston NP & Sayers Common NP Set New Precedents

Three very recent neighbourhood planning decisions present important markers for the future status of those plans in the system in the coming months.

The good news on the Winslow NP was quickly followed by the Secretary of State’s (SoS) decision not to contest the High Court ruling on the Rolleston NP and then by High Court ruling on the Sayers Common appeal.

The first showed that a properly structured and argued, development-positive NP, made after a successful referendum, can and should provide a defense against applications that are clearly contrary to its provisions and are being argued primarily on a ‘no up to date LP + no 5YHLS’ basis.

The challenges to the Winslow NP, and to the subsequent appeals of two large housing schemes there, only served to bolster the case law in this circumstance, which is perhaps why the developer chose to stop.

The second and third situations follow welcome, but nonetheless surprising to some of us, SoS decisions to back even draft NPs where there is no LP or 5YHLS. By welcome, I mean the SoS taking seriously (with no eye on the Election obviously) the spirit of the Localism Act and not just its technical meaning.

Of course, we knew that this was probably never going to withstand this kind of legal scrutiny if challenged. But until the NPPF and PPG are changed to allow for an effective moratorium on important but premature housing applications that are clearly intent on beating an NP to a decision, this is the way it’s going to have to be.

Some argued that, with some validity I think, the Rolleston and Sayers Common SoS decisions undermined the credibility of neighbourhood plans being seen as ‘proper’ development plans. But, although very different, both of those neighbourhood planning teams were taking their job seriously and valued the time and space that the SoS decisions brought. Otherwise both could have failed to get any further, which has been a real risk across many other NPs in areas with vulnerable LP/5YHLS positions.

Overall then, the outlook for NPs mattering in development management decisions is much healthier than a year ago. But there is now a clearer premium on having focused plans that are able to assemble the evidence and policies quickly and robustly, especially in areas where the strategic planning framework is uncertain.

Further reference:

The Rolleston appeal no. is: APP/B3410/W/13/2209697.

The Sayers Common High Court decision name is: Woodcock Holdings Limited v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/4594/2014.

Several observers have felt that the NPPF ‘death spiral’ of paras 49 and 14 would render a made NP’s policies out of date. This was the case at Winslow but anticipating this they structured the NP’s key spatial policy and approach to housing site allocations (reinforced in the Basic Conditions Statement) to counter that argument by demonstrating ‘the adverse impacts would outweigh the benefits’ using the second part of para 14. There’s no question in my mind that this should be made a lot clearer in a revised NPPF.

Local communities do not understand how a made NP, which has been positive about planning for development, can be immediately out of date  the NP just because the district local plan is not in place, which they can do nothing about.

It will be interesting to see if the SoS’s love for NPs in such situations continues beyond the Election. Possibly he’ll retreat in the light of Rolleston and Sayers and only back NPs on appeals once they’ve been examined or made and maybe just submitted depending on their content. But Inspectors should be doing the same anyway. We would still encourage LPAs to back imminent NPs when facing housing applications that are clearly counter to it, provided the NP has been positive and has structured its policies correctly. The Winslow appeal decisions, and some others, should give them the confidence to do so, without the threat of the High Court. All I’d say on the RSS housing targets would be ‘be careful what you wish for’!

Source: Winslow NP – Rolleston NP – Sayers Common NP = ? | LinkedIn

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