Since our last update the world has changed. This has and will affect the future of Planning in the UK.

News and updates are set out in our quarterly update below:

National Planning

The government want to help keep the planning system moving and a number of changes and announcements have been made to date as follows:

  • Temporary regulations have been introduced to allow authorities flexibility with public consultation
  • Neighbourhood Plan referendums are postponed until May 2021. However, neighbourhood plans awaiting referendums should be given significant weight in decision making.
  • Allowing extended working hours for construction sites until May 2021.
  • Temporarily relaxing some CIL rules for developers with an annual turnover of less than £45 million
  • Setting up virtual appeal hearings and public inquiries
  • New regulations to allow Planning Committees to hold virtual meetings
  • Regulations allowing pubs and restaurants to temporarily change to a takeaway

The 2020 Budget in March set out proposals to bring Britain’s planning system into the 21st century – more details can be found here. However, it will be interesting to see how these proposals emerge in the post Covid-19 economic recovery.

Local Plan Update

Central Bedfordshire Local Plan

CBC have now published additional documents submitted to the Inspectors to address the areas of concern and make the plan sound. A further consultation is expected soon – the CBC Examination page is kept updated with the latest information.

Bedford Borough Local Plan

Bedford Borough have now commenced a review of their local plan with an initial consultation and Call for Sites expected in June 2020. – More details can be viewed here: Bedford Borough Local Plan Review 

Further updates on the Strategic Plans in Bedfordshire can be found on our website: Planning in Bedfordshire

Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP)

The consultation on the proposed Main Modifications to the VALP closed on the 17 December 2019. The council are now preparing a response to the representations for the Inspector. This has been delayed by the Covid-19 crisis. Please click here for further information.

Cambridge Local Plan and South Cambridgeshire Local Plan

Consultation on the Greater Cambridge Local Plan ran during January and February 2020. The responses are now being assessed and a consultation draft Local Plan is expected to be published later in 2020. More details can be viewed here.

Information updates on other Strategic Plans in Cambridgeshire can be found on our website: Planning in Cambridgeshire

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council Joint Local Plan

The consultation for the Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan – Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report was undertaken during March and April 2020. The Council are now working on the preparation of the Draft Joint Local Plan Consultation (Reg 19). For further updates click here.

Uttlesford New Local Plan

On 30 April the Council decided to withdraw the Local Plan and start work on preparing a new plan for the district. This Council webpage provides the latest information.

Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan

The ongoing Examination Hearings have been postponed.  Further details can be found here. The Inspector had set out his timetable for the future of the Examination –more information can be found here. However these dates will have now slipped.

St Albans Local Plan

The Inspectors conducting the Examination hearings have raised serious concerns in relation to the legal compliance and soundness of the submitted Local Plan.  The full report can be viewed here – the Examination page is kept updated with the latest information.

East Northamptonshire

East Northamptonshire are currently preparing a new District-wide Local Plan Part 2 – for more information click here.  The Local Plan Part 2 will be revised and then submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination later in the year.

Northampton Local Plan

The Northampton Local Plan (Part 2) consultation was undertaken during 2019. The responses to this consultation can be viewed on the Councils website. More information can be found here.

Information updates on other Strategic Plans in Northamptonshire and the forthcoming local government reorganisation can be found on our website: Planning in Northamptonshire

National Infrastructure Projects

The A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon has now been opened eight months ahead of schedule. Further information can be found on the Highways England website.

In March 2020 Highways England announced that they were pausing further development of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway. Further information can be found on the Highways England website.

The preferred route for the Bedford to Cambridge section of East West Rail (EWR) was announced during January 2020. A series of consultation events are currently on hold. The latest news can be viewed here.

The consultation on the preferred route for the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet Road received strong support. An updated design is in preparation and will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for planning consent during summer 2020. Further details are available on the Highways England website.

The Lower Thames Crossing team have recently undertaken a supplementary consultation and are now preparing a DCO application which is due to be submitted later this year. For more information visit the Highways England website.

The major work to lay the dual carriageway for the improved A421 from Eagle Farm roundabout, Milton Keynes to Junction 13, M1 is making good progress, with over 80% of the carriageway now complete. The improved A421 is likely to be ready by the end of 2020. Updates can be viewed here.

The Central Bedfordshire Council’s Development Management Committee approved the planning application for the M1-A6 Link Road, subject to planning conditions in January 2020. It is estimated that construction will take two years. Further information can be found on the CBC website.

An application for expansion of London Luton Airport is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in mid 2020. Further information can be found on here. In the meantime, the Luton DART construction is progressing and is expected to open in 2021, offering 4 minutes transit time from Luton Airport Parkway Station to the Airport terminal.

Recent Appeal Decisions

An Outline application for up to 228 dwellings at Sunderland Road, Sandy was dismissed (16 March 2020)

An Outline application for up to 55 dwellings at Greenfield Road, Flitton was allowed (16 March 2020)

The redetermined appeal for up to 135 dwellings at Langford Road, Henlow was dismissed (6 April 2020)

An Outline application for up to 120 dwellings at Bower Lane, Eaton Bray was dismissed (14 April 2020)

An Outline application for up to 80 dwellings east of Oakley Road, Bromham was dismissed (16 April 2020)

A number of further appeals are pending:

  • Rear of Moat Farm Close Greenfield (Written Reps – decision awaited)
  • Fildyke Road, Meppershall (Written Reps – decision awaited)
  • Grange Lane, Lower Caldecote (Hearing – not yet arranged)
  • Plummers Lane, Haynes (Written Reps – decision awaited)
  • Hall End Road, Wootton (Written Reps – decision awaited)

Secretary of State Decisions

On 1st April 2020 the Secretary of State published his decision to allow an appeal and grant planning permission for up to 150 dwellings at land off Station Road Long Melford Suffolk. The decision followed a public inquiry held in June/July 2019.  At the time of the inquiry Babergh District Council were unable to demonstrate the minimum five years housing land supply.  In September 2019 the Council published an updated Housing Land Supply Position Statement which demonstrated an improved position of 5.67 years supply.  Accordingly, the ‘tilted balance’ set out in NPPF paragraph 11 was not engaged.  However, in the light of local need and the Government’s objective of significantly boosting the supply of homes, the Secretary of State attached significant weight to housing delivery. (PINS reference APP/D3505/W/18/3214377). A copy of the decision letter and Inspectors report can be found here.

Recent Planning Caselaw Updates

On 5 February 2020 the Supreme Court gave judgement in the case of R (on the application of Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster) & Others) v North Yorkshire County Council [2020] UKSC 3. This case hinged on the definition of “openness” of the Green Belt and whether this requires an assessment of visual impact. Lord Carnwath held that “openness” is related to the fundamental aim of preventing urban sprawl and keeping land permanently open.  It is not necessarily a statement about the visual qualities of the land (but may be an aspect of the planning judgement involved in applying the concept of openness).  In this case, the large quarry may be visually unattractive but that does not necessarily have an impact on openness.  As a barrier to urban sprawl, a quarry may be no less effective than a stretch of agricultural land.  In contrast, new buildings, although having limited visual impact, will reduce openness. In general, although visual impact was not material in Samuel Smith, the Supreme Court was not saying it is never relevant.  This will be fact dependant and a matter of planning judgement. Visual impact is likely to be a material consideration to be weighed in the planning balance even if not relevant to openness.

In the case of Paul Newman New Homes v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government [2019] EWHC 2367 (Admin) the High Court considered NPPF paragraph 11 (d) again. Some Development Plan policies most important to deciding the application for residential development were out of date.  However, the Inspector had concluded that the proposal was contrary to rural character policy, which remained up-to-date and relevant.  The High Court held that where one or more relevant policies exist, it cannot be said that there are “no relevant development plan policies”.  Relevant means “no more than some real role in the determination”.  The policy is not “out of date” just because it has expired.  This case may be taken to the Court of Appeal.

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