Whilst the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill continues to make its way through Parliament, Q3 of 2022 has seen some significant changes which are likely to affect Planning in the future.

In the meantime, we look at some of the latest news and updates in our quarterly update below:

National Planning

Following the election of the new Prime Minister, there have been further changes at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The Secretary of State is now The Rt Hon Simon Clarke MP (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) with Lee Rowley MP (North East Derbyshire) as the Housing and Planning Minister.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill currently remains in Committee Stage, where detailed examination of the Bill is taking place. This has been extended and there is speculation that there will be major changes in the legislation following the recent change of Prime Minister and changes at DLUHC.

The government’s recent Growth Plan announcement included proposed changes to the planning system to accelerate infrastructure projects and to create new investment zones with deregulated planning rules. Local authorities in discussion with the government to host an investment zone include:

  • Bedford Borough Council
  • Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Essex County Council
  • Greater London Authority
  • Suffolk County Council

The Councils affected by the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) have been working on a draft Mitigation Strategy. Alongside this, each authority is working on options for other required mitigation in the form of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). These are green spaces that will be delivered within each authority area to provide more local facilities and to discourage residents from travelling to the Beechwoods SAC.

Local Plan Update

Central Bedfordshire Local Plan

Following the adoption of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan 2015 to 2035 in July 2021, the Council have commenced a review of the Local Plan. Officers are currently working on the areas of the plan that will need reviewing. The Forward Plan indicates that they will report back to the Sustainable Communities Committee in January 2023.  Further information can be found here.

Bedford Borough Local Plan

Bedford Borough are continuing work on the Local Plan Review. Following the recent consultation the responses are being considered before submission to the Planning Inspectorate for examination in public. This is expected to take place early in 2023. For more information click here.

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

Buckinghamshire Local Plan

The wider call for greenfield sites closed 11 September 2022, although the Council may still consider sites submitted after that date.  All sites submitted through the wider call for sites (and previous calls for sites) will be technically assessed in the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HEELA).

Milton Keynes Local Plan

The Council have commenced work on a new Local Plan and the next consultation is expected to take place in summer/autumn 2023.

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

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050

The five Local Planning Authorities working on the joint Oxfordshire Plan 2050 have been unable to reach agreement and the work programme will end. The issues of housing needs will now be addressed through individual Local Plans for each of the City and District Councils.

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 and the Draft Plan Consultation is due to take place in Autumn 2023. 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

The Part 1 Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan is being progressed and the Councils are working on the proposed modifications to the Joint Local Plan. Further updates can be found on the Councils website .

West Suffolk Local Plan

West Suffolk have commenced a review of the local plan policies for the area. The Local Plan Preferred Options (Regulation 18) consultation in July 2022. The Council are now reviewing responses and preparing the Pre-submission Draft Local Plan.  This is expected to be published for consultation in May 2023. Further information can be found here.

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 preparation of the Local Plan has been paused and a new timetable for the publication of the draft (Regulation 18) Local Plan is in preparation. Further details can be viewed here.

South West Hertfordshire Local Plan

The draft Vision and Objectives of the SW Herts Joint Strategic Plan 2050 is currently on consultation until 5pm on Friday 4th November 2022. The documents can be viewed and comments made at swhertsplan.com/consultation.

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.

North Hertfordshire Local Plan

The North Hertfordshire Local Plan has been found sound and is expected to be adopted in the near future. The latest updates can be read here.

Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan

The Welhat Local Plan Examination has been in progress for over five years. The Inspector is currently awaiting the Main Modifications from the Council. The latest updates 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 aiming to undertake a Regulation 18 consultation from July next year for three months. A draft local plan will then be produced for consultation from July to September 2024. This is scheduled for submission to the Planning Inspectorate in December 2024.

Watford Local Plan

A new Local Plan is currently at Examination. The Main modifications consultation ended in July and the Council have provided the Inspector with a response to the representations 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  remains at Examination. The Council are currently following up the Action Points following the Hearing Sessions earlier in the year, which the Inspector will consider before deciding on the next steps for the Examination process. Details of the Examination are available here.

West Northamptonshire Strategic Plan

West Northamptonshire Council is preparing a new strategic plan which will guide development for the area up to 2050. The Council consulted on the Spatial Options Consultation document from October to December 2021. The Draft Plan Consultation (Regulation 18) is expected later this year. Further updates can be viewed here.

Northampton Local Plan

The Northampton Local Plan Part 2 and its accompanying documents are being examined by two Inspectors who have stated that, subject to certain main modifications to the Plan being made, they would be able to find the Plan sound. The Council have consulted on the Proposed Modifications and the Inspectors will consider the representations before issuing their final report. Further details can be found here.

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. Drop-In Events are being held across the route during July. For more details visit: https://communityhub.eastwestrail.co.uk/community-events

The Development Consent Order Application for the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet Road was approved on 18 August 2022. Construction is due to start at the end of this year, with the road opening in 2026. Further details can be viewed here.

The DCO application for the Lower Thames Crossing project is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in Autumn 2022. Further details can be viewed here.

A DCO application for expansion of London Luton Airport is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate early in 2023. 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 “called in” for determination by the Secretary of State. An Inquiry commenced on 27 September 2022 and can be followed here.

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 early in 2023. 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 7 apartment buildings comprising 576 dwellings on Land west of Lytton Way Stevenage was allowed (15 July 2022)

An application for 97 dwellings South of the Ridgeway Potton was allowed (1 August 2022)

An application for 181 dwellings including a Care Village on land south of Arlesey Road Stotfold was allowed (31 August 2022)

An application for 35 dwellings on Land off Ewbank Corner, Church Street, Langford was dismissed (15 September 2022)

A number of further appeals are pending including:

    • Wood Lane Aspley Guise (Written Representations – in progress)
    • Park Farm Eaton Bray (Written Representations – in progress)
    • Cobbitts Road Maulden (Written Representations – decision awaited)
    • East of Station Road, Blunham (Written Representations – in progress)
    • Land North Of The Pasture Somersham (Hearing – date awaited)
    • Manor Farm Potton Road Everton (Written Representations – in progress)
    • Cricketers Road Arlesey (Hearing – date awaited)
    • Land South East of Little Chalfont Bucks (Inquiry – December 2022)

Recent Planning Caselaw Updates

The case of Barry Devine v Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities [2022] EWHC 2031 (Admin) considered challenge against an Inspector’s appeal decision dismissing an appeal against an enforcement notice issued by Cheshire West and Chester Council. The case considered whether the relevant building operations had been ‘substantially completed’ before the Relevant Date and hence immune from enforcement action. The court upheld the Inspector’s view that the replacement of the entire roof of the building after the Relevant Date formed part of the unauthorised works in which the former agricultural barn had become a new building. Accordingly, the court confirmed that the project was an unfinished dwelling and in the light of Sage v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and the Regions [2003] UKHL 22, [2003] 2 All ER 689 the appeal was dismissed.

A claim for Judicial Review in the case R(Save North St Albans Green Belt & others) v St Albans City & District Council [2022] EWHC 2087 (Admin) was dismissed by the High Court. The site was 5.24 Ha of Green Belt where the Council resolved to grant planning permission subject to a section 106 agreement. The site was previously considered in Hunston Properties Ltd v SoSCLG [2013] EWCA Civ 1610. The court held that the Planning Officers Report (OR) was not seriously misleading, the Council was not under a duty to give reasons for the grant of planning permission as this was set out clearly in the OR, and the OR was justified in concluding that the Council has adequate information to assess the impacts of development of up to 150 dwellings.

The case of R(Joanne Cathie) v Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council [2022] EWHC 2148 (Admin) considered a challenge to the Council discharging a planning condition requiring an odour management plan (OMP), attached to retrospective planning permission for the installation of a reception pit and slatted yard at a farm hosting a dairy herd of 80 cows. The court held that the test for the discharge of the condition was whether the OMP proposed a ‘satisfactory’ solution to the impact of the farming operations on residential amenity. It was plain that a satisfactory solution does not need to be an ideal solution. The court accepted that amenity is an important planning consideration, but “best practical means” (BPM) was the appropriate test, rather than ‘satisfactory’. Furthermore, the Council was required to interpret the condition so that it did not impose a disproportionate or unjustifiable financial burden on the applicants, and finally there was no obligation on the applicants to adopt a “gold-plated” solution, which would fall foul of the NPPF and the PPG. Accordingly, the claim was dismissed.

The case of The King (James Noble & Helen Tayton-Martin) v Cornwall Council [2022] EWHC 2402 (Admin) is one of the first legal decisions to be issued following the accession of King Charles III. The claimants challenged a delegated decision of the council to grant conditional planning permission for an extension to a golf and country club in the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The claimants were amongst about 58 objections, including an objection from the AONB Unit. The court reviewed the relevant caselaw, including Tesco [1995], Mansell v Tonbridge & Malling BC [2017], St Modwen [2017], CPRE [2017] and Monkhill [2021], concluding that the planning officer had exercised her planning judgement in concluding that the proposed development would conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONB and comply with local plan policy. The reasoning in the Officers Report was proportionate to the nature of the application and the material considerations were adequately addressed. The claim was dismissed.

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