Significant events in Q1 are already ensuring that Planning stays interesting in 2023.
Please read some of the latest news in our quarterly update below:
Change continues in the National Planning arena with Rachel Maclean MP, becoming Minister of State for Housing and Planning in February.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is now at Committee stage in the House of Lords and several further sittings are programmed into April.
Consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) amendments were published before Christmas. These included proposals to reduce pressure on LPAs to provide housing needs in full and less focus on five-year housing land supply especially where Councils have an up-to-date Local Plan. The consultation has now closed and the Governments response is awaited.
A current planning application fees consultation seeks views on proposals to increase planning fees and to improve the performance of local planning authorities. Deadline for responses is 25 April 2023. Subject to the outcome of this consultation and Parliamentary approval, the government intend to introduce this fee increase in summer 2023.
The government are also consulting on a technical consultation on the Infrastructure Levy, which is a reform to the existing system of developer contributions. This consultation will inform the design of the Levy and of regulations that will set out its operation in detail. This consultation closes on 9 June 2023. Click here for more details.
The requirement for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) on development sites will become mandatory from November 2023 except for small sites. These will be subject to a transition period until April 2024. Find out more here.
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. The Report to Committee on 09 February 2023 indicated that whilst internal discussions were underway there are external factors outside of the Council’s control that have an impact on the decisions that can be taken at this time.
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. Initial correspondence has taken place with the Council is in progress. The dates of the Examination hearing sessions have now been arranged and will open on Monday 12 June 2023. Full further information, and access to the Inspector’s Matters, Issues and Questions, Guidance Note and Draft Programme, please see the Hearing sessions page. Further information can be found on the Council’s webpages where updates and information will be published as the examination 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. The Council consider that there is a limit to how much progress they can make until the government has confirmed the detail and timetable for the proposed changes. However, the early engagement questionnaire and call for sites is considered to give a good foundation for progress.
Milton Keynes Local Plan
The Council have commenced work on The New City Plan and have recently consulted on the Ambition & Objectives of the New City Plan.
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. The intention is for a full draft Local Plan to be considered by the councils in summer 2023 and subject to public consultation in autumn 2023. 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. A Call for Sites is currently running until 7 June 2023.
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 Proposed Modifications are on consultation until 3 May 2023. Further information is available on the Consultation page. The first public consultation on the Part 2 Local Plan is due in late Summer 2023. 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 took place in 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 Local Plan timetable has been amended with the draft (Regulation 18) Local Plan consultation due in Summer 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.
Dacorum Local Plan
The next Draft Local Plan consultation is expected to 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 over five years. Main modifications consultation responses have now been sent to the Inspector for his consideration. The Inspector will consider whether the proposed Main Modifications and any further amendments are necessary and will write a report concluding whether the Draft Local Plan has met the legal requirements and “tests of soundness”. Based on the Inspector’s findings, the Council will then decide whether to adopt the Draft Local Plan.
St Albans Local Plan
St Albans City and District Council is preparing a new Local Plan 2020-2038. The first consultation is due to take place in July – Sept 2023 – The Councils webpage will be updated throughout the plan-making process.
Three Rivers Local Plan
The Council are preparing a new Local Plan and have recently undertaken a consultation on Regulation 18 Additional Sites for Potential Allocation documents. Further details can be found here.
Information updates on other Strategic Plans in Hertfordshire can be found on our website: Planning in Hertfordshire
The East Northamptonshire Local Plan Part 2 is at Examination. The Council are currently consulting on the proposed Main Modifications and on proposed changes to the Policies Map until Friday 21st April 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 now considering responses. For more information visit the West Northants website.
Northampton Local Plan
On 3rd February 2023, the Council received the Inspectors’ Final report which concluded that the Plan is legally compliant and sound, subject to Main Modifications being made. The Local Plan was approved for adoption at the Full Council meeting on 23 March 2023. Further details can be found here.
Information updates on other Strategic Plans in Northamptonshire can be found on our website: Planning in Northamptonshire
National Infrastructure Projects
The Government’s Spring Budget included an announcement that the government will confirm the route for the new Bedford-Cambridge section of East-West Rail, in May, and will provide capacity funding to support local authorities to develop their plans for strategic economic growth around proposed new stations.
The Development Consent Application for the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet Road has been approved and construction was due to start at the end of this year, with the road opening in 2026. However an application has been submitted to the High Court for permission for a judicial review of the decision to grant the DCO. Whilst this has been refused, an oral hearing has been requested causing ongoing delay to the construction start. Further details can be viewed here.
The DCO application for the Lower Thames Crossing project was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate and the Examination process is ongoing. Further details can be viewed here.
A DCO application for expansion of London Luton Airport was received by the Planning Inspectorate in February and has been accepted for examination. 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 was held during Autumn 2022 and details can be viewed here. The Secretary of State’s decision is now awaited.
The DCO Examination for a proposed Energy Farm to be located across four sites in East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk is due to close by 28 March 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/
Anglian Water is proposing to relocate its Cambridge Waste Water Treatment Plant to enable the regeneration of North East Cambridge. An application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) was submitted in January 2023 but was withdrawn in February. A revised application is expected later this year. More information can be found here.
Two new reservoirs are currently being planned in Eastern England by Anglian Water. 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. To keep up to date with this project visit the website lincsreservoir.co.uk
Recent Appeal Decisions
- An application for 9 dwellings at Hiam Business Centre, Russell Farm, New Road, Maulden was dismissed (8 February 2023)
- An application for 19 dwellings on Land at Manor Farm Potton Road Everton was dismissed (9 February 2022)
- An application for residential development on Land between Lodge Lane and Burtons Lane, Little Chalfont, Amersham was allowed (8 March 2023)
- An application for 26 dwellings at Caldecote Road/Northill Road Ickwell was dismissed (24 March 2023
A number of further appeals are pending including:
- East of Station Road, Blunham (Written Representations – decision awaited)
- Land at Runfold St. George Badshot Lea Farnham (Written Representations – decision awaited)
- Land West Of Pavenham Road Oakley (Written Representations – decision awaited)
- Land North of Moor Street Rainham (Public Inquiry – 25 April)
Recent Planning Caselaw Updates
In the case of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust v Harborough DC  EWHC 263 Admin the High Court ruled that a request by the trust for a financial contribution towards funding local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) was not necessary, and therefore unlawful. Harborough District Council granted outline planning permission in May 2022 for a new neighbourhood, including 2,750 homes, at Lutterworth. During the consultation process, the trust claimed that under its block contracting arrangements with local CCGs, there would be a funding gap relating to healthcare services provided to those moving into the area during their first year of residence. This was because contracts were awarded annually and increases in the local population during any one year were not considered by CCGs for budgeting purposes until the following year. Since the proposed housing would be phased, the trust argued that a financial contribution totalling £914,000, should be made towards filling the funding gap. The council rejected the request, concluding that the contribution had not been proven to be necessary. The trust sought judicial review of the decision. Mr Justice Holgate noted that the planning officers’ reports had amply demonstrated that the council was “fully aware of and took into account the health impacts which the trust said would flow from the development.” It had sought specialist legal advice on the issue, the judge noted, and “took a great deal of trouble” to address the trust’s concerns. In his view, the council had exercised its judgement in determining whether the financial contribution met the legal test. In this context, the claimant agreed that the need was localised, but the High Court concluded that it had not proven it was necessary. The judge commented that “the trust’s doctrinaire approach to the funding issue…” was troubling, involving “…a wholly unwarranted interference with the proper discharge by a planning authority of its statutory functions”. Moreover, the judge concluded that it had been “…no more than a smokescreen behind which the trust has sought to deflect the perfectly proper questions posed by the council”. Whether there was a systemic issue about funding in the NHS was not a matter for the council or the court to address, the judge held. The claimant had failed to show that the financial contribution at a local level was necessary and the permission was upheld.
In the case of CAB Housing Ltd v Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities  EWCA Civ 194, in the Court of Appeal, the Senior President of Tribunals (Sir Keith Lindblom) considered how a local planning authority should approach an application for prior approval under Class AA of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO, which provides for “permitted development” rights to enlarge dwelling houses by the construction of additional The single ground of appeal gave rise to three main issues, all involving an exercise of statutory interpretation: in respect of “the scale of the proposal”; the meaning of “adjoining premises”; and thirdly, “amenity” impacts and “external appearance”. CAB Housing Ltd had appealed against the Councils decision to refuse the application for prior approval. The Inspector dismissed CAB Housing’s appeal. In this decision, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Inspectors decision in CAB Housing’s appeal was not flawed by the errors of the law alleged and the judge (Holgate J.) was right to reject the challenge to it. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
In the case of Mikael Armstrong v Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities  EWHC 176 (KB), before the High Court, the Claimant challenged the lawfulness of an appeal against the decision of Cornwall Council to refuse his application under section 73 of the TCPA 1990 to vary the plans for the construction of a new dwelling under an extant planning permission. The Deputy Judge (Mr James Strachan KC) ruled that the Inspector’s conclusion that the application would give rise to a fundamental variation to the permission such that the application fell outside the scope of S73 of the TCPA 1990, was wrong in law and his decision should be quashed. The advice the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) referring to S73 allowing amendments of conditions “including seeking to make minor material amendments”, is liable to confuse, as seen in the Inspector’s decision itself. The PPG introduces a concept of “minor material amendment” where no such expression exists in the statutory scheme. The terminology of the PPG introduces an impermissible gloss on the scope of S73, which has the propensity to misdirect the reader, as it did the Inspector in this case.
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