As we step into the final quarter of 2023, the local and national planning arena has been abuzz with constant change and exciting updates during Q3.
Please read some of the latest news in our quarterly update below:
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill had its final reading in the House of Lords on 21 September. The Bill will now go to the Commons for consideration of Lords amendments on Tuesday 17 October. It is hoped that the Bill will receive Royal Assent before November.
An update to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is expected to follow before the end of the year.
The draft Regulations for the Planning Application fee increase were laid before Parliament on 20 July 2023. They are scheduled to be considered by the House of Lords during October and expected to come into force before the end of the year.
Following a recent Government update, developments in England will be required to deliver 10% “Biodiversity Net Gain” from January 2024 onwards. The government has confirmed that all guidance and regulations will be published by the end of November. Biodiversity Net Gain for small sites will be applicable from April 2024.
Local Plan Update
Central Bedfordshire Local Plan
Following the adoption of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan 2015 to 2035 the Council have commenced a review of the Local Plan. A Report to Committee in September 2023 advised that to progress with a Partial Review under the existing legislation, which would require the submission of an updated plan for Examination by June 2025, is not a realistic option. Therefore, the Council are proposing to undertake a Full Local Plan Review under the new emerging legislation.
Bedford Borough Local Plan
The draft Bedford Borough Local Plan 2040 was submitted to the Secretary of State in January 2023. An Independent Inspector has been appointed to carry out the Examination of the Local Plan. Examination Hearing sessions have been held during June and September. Further information can be found on the Council’s webpages where updates and information will be published as the examination progresses.
Luton Borough Local Plan
Luton Borough Council is in the very early stages of the Local Plan Review. Their website page will be updated as the Plan progresses.
Further updates on the Strategic Plans in Bedfordshire can be found on our website: Planning in Bedfordshire
Buckinghamshire Local Plan
Buckinghamshire must produce a Local Plan within five years of coming into being, that is, by April 2025. An update on the progress of the Local Plan preparation was considered by the Growth, Infrastructure & Housing Select Committee on 7th September 2023.
Milton Keynes Local Plan
The Council have commenced work on The New City Plan. A Regulation 18 consultation is now programmed for summer 2024 with the Regulation 19 consultation following later in 2024 or early 2025. The Council propose to submit the Local Plan for Examination before June 2025.
Further updates on the Strategic Plans in Buckinghamshire can be found on our website: Planning in Buckinghamshire
Cambridge Local Plan and South Cambridgeshire Local Plan
The Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Development Strategy Update (Regulation 18 Preferred Options) was approved by the two Councils in January/February 2023. This report is a stage towards the preparation of a draft Local Plan and is not itself to be subject to public consultation. Due to continued work exploring water supply, and delay to the submission of the Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant relocation Development Consent Order, the Local Plan timetable will be updated. This will only be when they have greater clarity on these matters. Further information can be found here
Huntingdonshire Local Plan Update
Huntingdonshire District Council has commenced a full update to the adopted Local Plan. Further information can be found here. Responses from the recent consultation and call for sites will be assessed in view of the preparation of a Further Issues and Options document being published in Spring 2024.
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 Inspector’s Report for the Part 1 Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan has been published and confirms that the Plan is sound and capable of adoption. The Full Council meetings to consider the adoption of the Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan Part 1 will take place in November 2023.The first public consultation on the Part 2 Local Plan is due in 2023. Further updates can be found on the Councils website.
West Suffolk Local Plan
West Suffolk are planning to consult on the final draft (Regulation 19 proposed submission) local plan in January 2024. 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 draft Local Plan public consultation (Reg 18) is expected to start in the week of 30 October 2023. Further details can be viewed here.
South West Hertfordshire Local Plan
The responses to the draft Vision and Objectives are being analysed and the next stage of the SW Herts Joint Strategic Plan will be a ‘spatial options’ consultation, which will seek feedback on the appropriate amount and best locations for growth. Further information can be found here.
Dacorum Local Plan
A recent Committee report has recommended that the Regulation 18 consultation should take place between 30 October – 12 December 2023 with an updated timetable to ensure submission before the government deadline of June 2025.
Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan
The Welhat Local Plan Examination has ended with the receipt of the Inspector’s Report which concludes that subject to main modifications, the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan is sound, legally compliant and capable of adoption. Councillors will consider the adoption of the Local Plan at the next full Council meeting on 12 October 2023.
St Albans Local Plan
St Albans City and District Council is progressing with the production of a Local Plan and a formal public consultation on key proposals has recently been held.
Three Rivers Local Plan
Following recent consultations, the Three Rivers Council expect to be undertaking a further consultation in the autumn: Our vision for Three Rivers – our preferred Local Plan and housing numbers.This will focus on an alternative Local Plan with a lower housing target that is considered to more appropriately meet the District’s needs and prioritises local circumstances.
Information updates on other Strategic Plans in Hertfordshire can be found on our website: Planning in Hertfordshire
The Part 2 Local Plan for East Northamptonshire was submitted to the Secretary of State in March 2021. The Examination hearing sessions were held from April to May 2022 and following receipt of the Inspector’s report, the plan is expected to be adopted by Autumn 2023. Details 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. A Spatial Options consultation was undertaken at the end of 2021 and the Council are currently considering responses. For more information visit the West Northants website.
Information updates on other Strategic Plans in Northamptonshire can be found on our website: Planning in Northamptonshire
National Infrastructure Projects
The preferred route announcement for the new Bedford-Cambridge section of East West Rail was made at the end of May. Consultation is proposed in early 2024 before East West Rail submit their application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to build and operate the railway. Further details can be found here.
The Examination of the DCO application for the Lower Thames Crossing project is in progress and must close by 20 December 2023. Further details can be viewed here.
The Examination of the DCO application for expansion of London Luton Airport was opened on 10 August 2023 and is expected to close on 10 February 2024. Further information can be found here. In the meantime, the decision by the Secretary of State for the application to increase the number of passengers is still awaited.
The Secretary of State has decided to re-set the statutory deadline for the decision on the proposed Energy Farm, to be located across four sites in East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk, until 7 December 2023. 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/
The Examination of the Development Consent Order (DCO) application for the proposed Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant will commence on 17 October 2023 and will last for six months. Information about the examination period can be found on this page.
Anglian Water are currently planning two new reservoirs in Eastern England. One is proposed north of Chatteris and near the villages of Doddington and Wimblington, Cambridgeshire. More details are available at https://www.fensreservoir.co.uk/ The second site is south-east of Sleaford, Lincolnshire. This is expected to be submitted for a DCO in September 2025. To keep up to date with this project visit the website lincsreservoir.co.uk
Chilterns Beechwoods SAC
Dacorum BC and Central Bedfordshire Council now have mitigation strategies adopted and have released the moratorium on the grant of planning permissions, subject to the payment of Mitigation fees. The Buckinghamshire Mitigation Strategy is currently due to be published in November 2023. Click here for more information.
Recent Appeal Decisions
- An Outline application for up to 40 dwellings on Land at Station Road, Oakley was allowed (24 July 2023)
- A Full application for two dwellings at The Pigling, Shefford Road, Meppershall were allowed (26 July 2023)
- An Outline application for 23 dwellings at High Street Meppershall was dismissed (18 August 2023)
- An application for 9 serviced plots for the erection of self build dwellings at Northill was dismissed (25 August 2023)
A number of further appeals are pending including:
- Land south of Biggleswade Road Dunton (Written Representations – in progress)
- Land North of Stockbridge Road Clifton (Written Representations – in progress)
- Rectory Farm Great Addington (Written Representations – in progress)
- Land to the North of Eagle Farm Cranfield Road Wavendon (Hearing – Decision awaited)
- Land South Of 73-81 Upwell Road March (Hearing – 13 December 2023)
- Land west of Moreton Road and Castlemilk Buckingham (SoS Call In – Inquiry – 17 October 2023)
- Land at Linford Lakes Milton Keynes (Inquiry – 5 December 2023)
- Land at Swallowfields, Welwyn Garden City (Inquiry – 12 December 2023)
- Land at Cambridge Road Impington (Inquiry – 16 January 2024)
- Land at Richings Way Iver (Hearing – 16 January 2024)
Recent Planning Caselaw Updates
The case of R (Widdington Parish Council) v Uttlesford District Council  EWHC 1709 (Admin) concerned a challenge to a grant of planning permission for 4 dwellings. A certificate of lawfulness was previously granted by UDC certifying that the “proposed formation, laying out and construction of a means of access…in connection with the use of the Site (up to 14 days per calendar year) for the purposes of the holding of a market” was lawful under Schedule 2 Part 2 Class B of the GPDO. This fall-back position was a key issue. The court found that members were not given a legally adequate direction on how to approach this. The officer’s committee report did not discuss that the access was linked to a market being provided on site or the likelihood of a market occurring, and these matters were not corrected in a verbal update to committee. The court also found the analysis of heritage matters in the officer’s report was not internally consistent and that the report did not provide members with a proper understanding of how their judgment on adverse heritage impacts could affect the application of the tilted balance.
The case of Protect Dunsfold Ltd v Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities  EWHC 1854 (Admin) concerned legal challenges to a Secretary of State decision in respect of a site located south of an AONB, forming part of the setting to the AONB and in an Area of Great Landscape Value. The unsuccessful challenge claimed that the decision failed to have regard to paragraph 176 of the NPPF which required that “great weight” should be given to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty in AONBs (or a development plan policy on AONB) or failing to give reasons for departing from this. The claim also alleged a failure to explain inconsistencies with a decision for a shale gas scheme at Ellesmere Port issued on the same day. The court found that the Inspector’s report for the decision expressly referred to the last part of para 176 which was a strong indication that he had all this paragraph in mind. The court also found that the Ellesmere Port decision was not one which no reasonable decision-maker would have failed to consider when making this decision.
The case of R (Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust) v Malvern Hills District Council  EWHC 1995 (Admin) concerned a challenge to a council decision to grant planning permission for a mixed-use development including up to 2,204 dwellings, following a request from the Trust for a s.106 contribution. After a resolution to grant had already been made the Trust requested a contribution of £3,357,949 (later revised to £1,839,839) to cover a funding gap for up to one year. The court found that the Trust had not explained the extent to which NHS funding allowed for population growth during the first year of occupancy on the site. Accordingly, the Council was entitled to find that the request was not “necessary” for the purposes of Reg.122(2) of the CIL Regs.
In the case of Lazari Properties 2 Ltd v Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities  EWHC 2026 (Admin) the court considered an appeal for a certificate that the existing use of a shopping centre fell within Class E. The certificate application had also sought to establish as lawful non-compliance with a condition requiring a certain proportion of floorspace to be used “within Use Classes A2 and A3 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order, 1987, or in any provision equivalent to that Class in any statutory instrument revoking and re-enacting that Order.” The court said the “ultimate question” is “whether the words used in the relevant condition, taken in their full context, clearly demonstrated an intention on the part of the local planning authority to exclude the operation of the GPDO (or UCO). The court found that this condition had an “exclusionary effect” and that it overrode the operation of the UCO (as amended by 2020 amendments to it, including the new Class E).
The case of Caldwell v Secretary of State for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities  EWHC 2053 (Admin) related to a dwelling which was substantially completed in April 2014. An enforcement notice was issued in February 2021, alleging a breach of planning control of (without permission) materially changing the use of land from agricultural to residential and carrying out operational development to facilitate this by constructing a building occupied as a dwelling. The notice required the demolition/dismantling of the dwelling (amongst other things). Section 173(3) TCPA 1990 allows LPAs to require restoration of land to its condition before a breach took place but s.171B gives operational development immunity from enforcement action four years after substantial completion. The power to require restoration can include removing operational development which could not be enforced against on its own. However, the court identified that the limitation on this is where the operational development is itself the source of or fundamental to the change of use.
Enterprise Hangars Ltd v Fareham Borough Council  EWHC 2060 (Admin) concerned a Council’s refusal to allow access to land in its ownership for a developer to undertake a badger survey. The claimant sought the quashing of this decision and a mandatory order requiring such access to be given. The court identified that the Council, as an LPA, was entrusted by Parliament to discharge its functions as such in accordance with the principles of public law so it cannot exercise the rights that it would otherwise have as a landowner, if and to the extent that this would inhibit its ability to decide planning applications according to law. The Council’s planning officer had conducted a site visit and the court found that the Council had used its position as landowner to put the claimant at a material disadvantage in the planning process. The decision to refuse access was quashed and the court indicated it was minded to make the mandatory order.
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