As 2020 ends we look onto continued Changes in Planning in the UK in 2021.

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

National Planning

Planning in the UK continues to hit the headline news with the government’s proposals for radical reform of the planning system and the additional £12M of funding announced in the Spending Review to take forward the changes next year.

The Planning for the Future White Paper consultation closed in October 2020. The government are currently considering the 44,000 responses received and the actual implementation of revised proposals are unlikely to take place for some time.

It is expected that the revised Standard Method of Assessing Local Housing Need will be announced early in 2021.

The government are currently consulting on Further Changes to Permitted Development Rights for change of use to residential and the consolidation of the existing permitted development rights following the changes to the Use Classes Order. The consultation which closes on 28 January 2021 can be found here. This has been characterised as “the most radical planning reform of the Year”, with no size limit on the scale of conversions from Class E uses to Class C3 Residential, subject to prior approval.  It is proposed that there will be no requirement for planning obligations or affordable housing requirements.

From April 2021 all homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights (PDR) will have to meet the Nationally Described Space Standards.

Local Plan Update

Central Bedfordshire Local Plan

Following the consultation on additional documents from June to August, all responses have been forwarded to the Planning Inspectors to assist their deliberations and further examination hearing sessions are taking place during December. The sessions are being held virtually and further information can be found here.

Bedford Borough Local Plan

Bedford Borough have now commenced a review of their local plan and the first issues and options consultation closed on 4 September 2020. – Details of the submitted responses and Call for Sites submissions can be viewed at: 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)

Following the Main Modifications consultation in late 2019, the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) has reached the next stage in the process. A further consultation is taking place between 15 December 2020 and 9 February 2021. Details of the consultation can be found here.

Buckinghamshire Local Plan

Chiltern and South Bucks were in the process of preparing a joint Local Plan. Following a Planning Inspector’s initial findings this plan has now been withdrawn and the new Unitary authority will be focusing their efforts on a new Buckinghamshire Local Plan.

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

 Cherwell Local Plan

The Cherwell Local Plan 2011-2031 (Part 1) Partial Review – Oxford’s Unmet Housing Need was formally adopted as part of the statutory Development Plan by the Council in September 2020. This Plan provides the strategic planning framework and sets out strategic site allocations to provide Cherwell District’s share of the unmet housing needs of Oxford to 2031. A review of the Local Plan has now commenced. Further details can be found here.

Cambridge Local Plan and South Cambridgeshire Local Plan

Consultation on the Greater Cambridge Local Plan ran during January and February 2020. The Councils are currently developing the evidence base for the plan and testing possible growth levels and strategic spatial options and aim to consult on a Preferred Option later in 2021. 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 Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan – Pre-submission (Regulation 19) Consultation opened on 12 November 2020 and closes at 12 noon on 24 December 2020. For further information click here.

Uttlesford New Local Plan

Uttlesford have commenced work on a New Local Plan for the district. This Council webpage provides the latest information.

Rutland Local Plan Review

The Regulation 19 Consultation Local Plan Public Consultation ran until 6 November 2020. The Council are now considering the representations received.  More information can be found on the Councils Local Plan Review page.

Dacorum Local Plan

Consultation on the Emerging Strategy for Growth (2020-2038) is now open and will run until 11.59pm on Sunday 7 February 2021 – visit the Dacorum Local Plan Virtual Exhibition to find out more.

Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan

The Inspectors Interim Report gave the Council two main options: –

  • To propose additional housing sites, or
  • to withdraw the Plan from examination.

The Council has decided to continue with a lower OAN than recommended – the Councils updates can be found here.

St Albans Local Plan

The Inspectors conducting the Examination raised serious concerns in relation to the legal compliance and soundness of the submitted Local Plan. The full report can be viewed here. In the light of this the Council have now withdrawn the Plan. – the Examination page contains the latest information.

Hertsmere Local Plan

The publication of the new draft Local Plan for the borough is now expected in Spring 2021.

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

East Northamptonshire

East Northamptonshire are currently preparing a new District-wide Local Plan Part 2 and undertook a further Site Consultation during October and November 2020. The Pre-submission Draft (Reg 19) consultation is now due to take place in January and February 2021 – for more information click here.

Northampton Local Plan

The Northampton Local Plan (Part 2) was published for a second consultation in July – September 2020. 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 preferred route for the Bedford to Cambridge section of East West Rail (EWR) was announced during January 2020. Online sessions were held with the local community representatives during August and more are planned. 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. Highways England are currently consulting on the diversion of a high pressure gas pipeline. The consultation closes on 18 December 2020. Further details are available on the Highways England website.

A DCO application for the Lower Thames Crossing team was submitted but has now been withdrawn for modification and resubmission early in the New Year. For more information visit the Highways England website.

An application for expansion of London Luton Airport was expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate during 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.

Anglian Water is proposing to relocate its Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant to enable the regeneration of North East Cambridge. The project is currently in the pre-application phase for a Development Consent Order (DCO). More information can be found here.

Recent Appeal Decisions

An Outline application for up to 81 dwellings at Hall End Road, Wootton was dismissed (15 September 2020)

An Outline application for 10 dwellings at Biggleswade Road, Upper Caldecote was dismissed (17 November 2020)

A PIP application for up 4 dwellings at The Lane, Wyboston was dismissed (27 November 2020)

An Outline application for up to 400 dwellings between Hookhams Lane and Ravensden Road, Renhold was dismissed (2 December 2020)

An Outline application for up to 25 dwellings at Plummers Lane, Haynes was dismissed (3 December 2020)

A number of further appeals are pending:

  • Ickwell Road, Upper Caldecote (Written Reps – decision awaited)
  • Hookhams Lane, Renhold (Written Reps – decision awaited)
  • Sundon Road, Harlington (Written Reps – decision awaited)
  • Grange Way, Willington (Hearing – not yet arranged)
  • Grange Lane, Lower Caldecote (Hearing – not yet arranged)
  • Shefford Road, Meppershall (Hearing – not yet arranged)

Secretary of State Decisions

The Secretary of State allowed an appeal against the failure of Teignbridge DC to determine an application for a hybrid proposal including 1210 dwellings, a primary school, employment, two care-homes and other development. The appeal raised issues of statutory heritage duties both in respect of a listed building and a conservation area, together with impact on the Greater Horseshoe Bats and the South Hams SAC.  The Secretary of State rejected the need for a planning obligation in favour of the local NHS trust in the light of the allocation of the appeal site in the local plan.

Recent Planning Caselaw Updates

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the claimant’s appeal in Oxton Farm v Harrogate BC [2020] EWCA Civ 805, confirming the High Court decision that the grant of outline planning permission for 21 new houses and a village shop was lawful. Although the Council could demonstrate 5YHLS, the settlement boundaries were out of date and the key policies were also out of date.  Accordingly, the ‘tilted balance’ was engaged.

The case of Peel Investments (North) Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2020] EWCA Civ 1175 has clarified further uncertainties about the ‘tilted balance’. In particular:

  • A development plan is not automatically ‘out of date’ simply because it is past its intended period of operation.
  • The absence of strategic polices for housing land supply does not mean that other saved policies are automatically ‘out of date’. The environmental protection policy at issue “clearly has a life beyond the expiry of the plan”.

The issue of whether a plan is ‘out of date’ is a matter of planning judgement and is not confined to whether it conforms with the NPPF.

The issues arising from a Neighbourhood Plan proposing Local Green Space (LGS) were considered in the case of R (on the application of Lochailort Investments Ltd) v Mendip DC [2020] EWHC 1146 (Admin). The High Court (Lang J) rejected the claim for JR, recognising the expertise of specialist planning inspectors and confirming that the local planning authority was entitled to rely on the examiners report.

A workable solution to the Nitrate problem

Following rulings in the EU Court of Justice concerning interpretation of the Habitats Directive which safeguards protected sites such as the Solent and Southampton Water Special Protection Area (SPA), Natural England advice to Hampshire councils resulted in planning permission for new housing being put on hold unless the application could demonstrate that they were ‘nitrate neutral’.

Natural England has launched a ‘nitrates calculator’ to enable developers to calculate their nutrient budget and mitigation to provide reasonable certainty that the development will not adversely affect the integrity of the relevant internationally designated sites.

Natural England and DEFRA have now invested £3.9M to create an “online nitrate trading platform” whereby developers in the Solent area will be able to buy credits to contribute to new habitats to offset the impact of nitrate deposition. The local wildlife trust will purchase land to “re-wild” to prevent fertilizer heavy soils entering the Solent.

A similar issue in respect of Phosphates in the Somerset Levels and Moors has impacted on housing delivery in Somerset West and Taunton, Sedgemoor, Mendip and South Somerset. The four authorities are currently working on a joint strategy to address these issues, in order to unlock delivery of 11,000 new homes planned in Somerset.

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