2022 has certainly started with numerous changes in the Planning and Housing arena.

Some latest news and updates are set out in our quarterly update below:

National Planning

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published the Levelling Up White Paper early in 2022. There are now only a few of the changes previously proposed by the Planning White Paper that the government appear to be taking forward. These include:

  • A new approach to contributions towards infrastructure including affordable housing;
  • Digitalisation of the planning system;
  • Encouraging more neighbourhood planning including local design codes.

Following the finalisation of the Environment Bill the government are currently consulting on how the requirement for 10% net biodiversity gain will be implemented.

Omission of the Oxbridge Arc from the Levelling Up White Paper has led to scepticism that the government are not continuing with the Spatial Framework. However, the director of the Arc Leaders Group had advised that he understands that a response from the Government is being drafted and will be published soon.

There are now 74 Councils that are affected by Natural England’s nutrient neutrality advice – requiring that where protected sites are in unfavourable condition due to excess nutrients, projects and plans should only go ahead if they will not cause additional pollution to sites.

New advice from Natural England regarding damage to the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) will impact planning decisions in Buckinghamshire Council (covering Aylesbury Vale and Chiltern districts), Central Bedfordshire Council, Dacorum Borough Council, St Albans City and District Council, and Hertfordshire County Council. Councils have responded by freezing the issuing of housing decisions in the affected area.

Local Plan Update

Central Bedfordshire Local Plan

The Central Bedfordshire Local Plan 2015 to 2035 was formally adopted in July 2021. The Council have now commenced preliminary work on a review and a Call for Sites is expected towards the end of 2022.

Bedford Borough Local Plan

Bedford Borough are continuing work on the Local Plan Review. The Local Plan 2040 Draft Plan is due to be considered at the Executive Meeting on 27 April 2022.

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

Buckinghamshire Local Plan

Buckinghamshire Council are currently reviewing responses to their recent questionnaire survey for the new Local Plan.  The Council are also making a call for previously developed sites. To submit information on a potential brownfield site, please go to: https://bit.ly/3oo4rHz

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

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Regulation 19 Submission document is still in preparation and is expected to be published later this year. Further details can be found here.

Cambridge Local Plan and South Cambridgeshire Local Plan

Following consultation on the Greater Cambridge Local Plan – First Proposals during 2021, the councils are now developing a full Draft Plan. Further information can be found 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

In the light of the Examining Inspectors advice, the Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan is being progressed as a Part 1 Local Plan. This will be followed by the preparation and adoption of a ‘Part 2’ local plan as soon as possible. The letter from the inspectors (document G09) gives details on the areas each plan will be likely to include.

Ipswich Local Plan Review

The Inspectors’ Report into the Ipswich Local Plan Review 2018-2036 has concluded that with the recommended Main Modifications the document is ‘sound’. The Council are expected to adopt the Local Plan Review shortly.  Further news and updates will be published on the Councils webpage.

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

Uttlesford New Local Plan

Uttlesford are preparing a New Local Plan for the district. The draft (Regulation 18) Local Plan is scheduled for consultation in March 2022. Further details can be viewed here.

Dacorum Local Plan

The Council have now published a new Local Development Scheme which sets out that the next Draft Local Plan consultation will take place in June – July 2023 with the final plan not expected to be adopted until October 2025.

Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan

The Welhat Local Plan Examination has been in progress for nearly three and a half years. The Council have now advised that they cannot commence Main Modifications consultation until after the May elections. They are also unable to accept the Inspectors housing target and have written to the Housing Minister to ask him to intervene. Copies of these letters can be read here.

St Albans Local Plan

St Albans City and District Council is preparing a new Local Plan 2020-2038. The Council is experiencing delays due to resourcing issues – The Councils webpage will be updated throughout the plan-making process.

Hertsmere Local Plan

Hertsmere were in the process of producing a new Local Plan. Following the recent consultation Council members have resolved to abandon the draft plan due to opposition from residents to the level of proposed green belt release.

Watford Local Plan

A new Local Plan is currently at Examination. Hearing sessions were held during January and February 2022. The Council have now published proposed Main modifications which the Inspector will consider. For more information visit https://www.watfordlocalplan.co.uk/

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

East Northamptonshire

The East Northamptonshire Local Plan Part 2 was submitted in March 2021.  A Planning Inspector has been appointed and Examination Hearing Sessions will commence on 6th April. Details of the Examination are available here.

Northampton Local Plan

The Northampton Local Plan Part 2 and its accompanying documents are currently being examined by two Inspectors who have written to the Council following their initial assessment. The Council are progressing outstanding work and will draft a schedule of main modifications to be consulted upon in due course. Further details can be found here.

West Northamptonshire Strategic Plan

West Northamptonshire Council is preparing a new strategic plan which will guide development for the area up to 2050. A Spatial Options consultation was undertaken at the end of 2021 and the Council are now considering responses. For more information visit the West Northants website.

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

National Infrastructure Projects

East West Rail are continuing to review the options on the Bedford to Cambridge route of the EWR project. For the latest news click here.

The Development Consent Order Examination for the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet Road closed on 18 February 2022. There will now be a period of three months for the Examining Authority to write its report and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will then have three months in which to make a decision. Further details can be viewed here.

Highways England has announced details of a further round of public consultation from 12 May to 20 June 2022, giving local communities the chance to have their say on some refinements to the Lower Thames Crossing project. For more information visit the Highways England  website.

A DCO application for expansion of London Luton Airport is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. Further information can be found here. In the meantime, an application to increase the number of passengers which Luton Council have resolved to approve has been issued with a “holding direction” by the Secretary of State to allow him to consider whether to “call in” the application for his determination.

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) which is now expected to be submitted in Q3 2022. More information can be found here.

A DCO application has been submitted for a proposed Energy Farm to be located across four sites in East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk. If constructed, the Sunnica Energy Farm will connect to the national electricity grid at the Burwell National Grid Substation. For further details visit https://sunnica.co.uk/

Recent Appeal Decisions

An application for 2 dwellings at Whitley Road Shortstown was dismissed (22 December 2021)

An application for elderly care apartments on the Former Lidl Site Bedford Road Kempston was allowed (11 January 2022)

An application for 4 dwellings at The Chequers High Street Yielden was dismissed (18 January 2022)

An application for 2 dwellings at Bedford Road Great Barford was dismissed (26 January 2022)

An application for five dwellings at Ailwyns Acre, Cranfield was allowed (18 February 2022)

An application for conversion of an existing workshop into two dwellings, at Shortmead Street, Biggleswade was dismissed (4 March 2022)

A number of further appeals are pending including:

    • West of High Street Arlesey (Inquiry – 2 Nov 2021 – decision awaited)
    • Land off Ewbank Corner, Church Street, Langford (Written Representations – decision awaited)
    • Land south of Arlesey Road Stotfold (Inquiry – 3 May 2022)
    • High Street Bottisham (Inquiry – 25 Jan 2022 – decision awaited)
    • South of the Ridgeway Potton (Inquiry – date awaited)
    • Teversham Road Fulbourn (Inquiry – 24 May 2022)
    • Sawfords Meadow Tempsford (Written Representations – in progress)
    • School Lane Eaton Bray (Written Representations – in progress)
    • Knolls View, Totternhoe (Written Representations – in progress)

Following a High Court Consent Order in January 2021, the appeal by Hollins Strategic Land LLP for up to 81 dwellings on land west of Wootton School, Hall End Road, Wootton, has been remitted for redetermination. The Planning Inspectorate is to re-open the Hearing to reconsider the appeal in the light of the High Court order.

Recent Planning Caselaw Updates

In the case of Finch v Surrey CC [2022] EWCA Civ 187, the Appellant, Sarah Finch, appealed against the order of Holgate J, dismissing her claim for judicial review of the planning permission granted by Surrey CC for 4 new oil wells (reported in our 2021- Q4 newsletter). The Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom dismissed the appeal with the support of Lord Justice Lewison.  Lord Justice Moylan gave a dissenting judgment, considering that the conclusion that the greenhouse gas emissions which would be caused by the use of the oil extracted from the Horse Hill Well Site were not relevant effects of that project was legally flawed.

The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the case of Manchester City Council v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government [2021] EWCA Civ 1920, upholding the High Court judgment at [2021] EWHC 858 (Admin), where the court held that a planning inspector was wrong to impose conditions on the grant of planning permission on the ground that they were unnecessary. The case arose from an enforcement notice served by Manchester City Council in respect of the material change of use of a dwellinghouse to form 4 commercial units.  The court considered whether a change of use of land is “material” and the principles applicable to the appropriate planning unit ‘Burdle’, together with the distinction between a limited description of a use permitted by the grant of planning permission and a condition prohibiting further change as in ‘I’m Your Man Ltd’ and ‘Cotswold Country Grange Park LLP’ [2014] EWHC 1138 (Admin), [2014] JPL 981.  On the facts of the case, the judge had found that there were four planning units and the inspector had made an error of law.  The Court of Appeal upheld the judgment and dismissed the appeal.

The case of Swire v Canterbury City Council and Redrow Homes Ltd [2022] EWHC 390 (Admin) considered the alleged deficiencies in the planning procedures followed for major development on land at Cockering Farm, Thannington. The appellant issued seven claims for judicial review against CCC.  The court rejected the claim that the development was not in conformity with the parameter plans forming part of the outline application.  The court also rejected the claim that the Council approved the Masterplan in breach of the EIA Regulations and the Habitat Regulations.  Finally, the court found that alleged conflict between the SUDS proposals and existing rights of way was a “hopeless” complaint.  All other JR applications were also rejected.

In TV Harrison CIC v Leeds City Council [2022] EWHC 130 (Admin) the High Court (Mr Justice Lane) ruled that the Council’s refusal to list a local sports field as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) was unlawful. The case also provides important clarity in the correct interpretation of the law regarding the listing of ACVs.  The Council had concluded that they should refuse the application for listing the ACV due to the land having been allocated for housing in the local plan and that the Council had “firm and settled plans” to develop the land for housing.

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