Local Plan review: Comments on Council’s modifications

Author: Cyril Richert

Local Plan review: Comments on Council’s modifications

Local Plan examination – Hearing session 8th July 2015

At the end of October we submitted a formal response to the consultation on proposed modifications form Wandsworth Council, following the government inspector (in charge of reviewing the Local Plan) interim letter.

Not surprisingly, we followed the comments already expressed in our previous article (click HERE). You can download our representation HERE.

Below are the key elements.

Proposed Main Modification: MM06 – SSAD1 (new policy Site Specific SAllocation Document)

In reaction to the Inspector’s criticism regarding the (in)effectiveness of the SSAD, the planning officers are proposing to include a new policy within the Core Strategy document, called SSAD1.

However we are baffled with the following paragraph saying:

“Proposals which do not comply with the SSAD will only be granted permission where material considerations clearly indicate that an alternative type of development is more appropriate, where the development would be in accordance with all other relevant policies, and where the development would not prejudice the delivery of the Core Strategy, the objectives of the relevant area spatial strategy, or SSAD compliant schemes on neighbouring sites.”

In our view, this proposed change is only creating confusion: there is no definition of “material considerations [which] clearly indicate that an alternative type of development is more appropriate”.

We wonder what considerations could be brought that could sweep out years of drafting of planning policies by many planning officers, carefully considered during numerous consultations and reviewed by planning inspectorate to form the framework of accepted policies to be applied when reviewing planning applications. Are we talking about developer’s profit (or their definition of viability)? Are we talking about CIL and section 106 contributions that the Council could welcome?

We consider also that the Council is inviting developers to ignore the SSAD policy and come with alternative plans!

Therefore the new policy is not only still ineffective regarding the SSAD document, but it makes things even worse as this time it clearly states the possibility of ignoring the SSAD, subject to justifications: it is now specifically noted that alternative plans, that local authorities have not thought of and consulted on, can be submitted and that it will be considered within the planning application decision at the same level as the SSAD.

The Wandsorth Society has responded in similar terms to the new SSAD1 policy. They said:

There is nothing in the proposed policy that addresses the Inspector’s first requirement that development should be undertaken in accordance with the SSAD. Neither is there anything in the proposed policy that clarifies the role of the SSAD.

The Inspector introduces his interim view on the ineffectiveness of the SSAD within the Local Plan with reference to paragraph 157 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The paragraph opens

Crucially, Local Plans should: …

the Inspector quotes the fifth bullet point –

•    allocate sites to promote development and flexible use of land and provide detail about the form, scale, access and quantum of development where appropriate;  (emphasis added)

The requirement for the Local Plan to provide detail on its requirements about the form, scale and amount of development on sites it identifies for development is given further weight in paragraph 154 of the NPFF –

Local Plans should be aspirational but realistic. They should address the spatial implications of economic, social and environmental change. Local Plans should set out the opportunities for development and clear policies on what will or will not be permitted and where. Only policies that provide a clear indication of how a decision maker should react to a development proposal should be included in the plan. (emphasis added)

The SSAD is the place to provide detail about the form, scale and amount of development and to set out clear policies on what will or will not be permitted on identified sites.

As the Inspector identifies, without an express statement that development on identified sites is to be undertaken in accordance with the requirements set out in the SSAD the Local Plan is ineffective and inconsistent with national policy.

You can download the Wandsworth Society representation HERE.

Proposed Main Modification: MM29 – IS5 (Affordable housing)

We consider that explicit reference to viability assessment, implying that submission of viability assessment is enough to brush off the affordable criteria, weaken the policy and let developers to ignore the targets. It is clearly demonstrated with evidence in the borough of Wandsworth.

Therefore it should be removed and replaced with “economic circumstances” (“changing economic conditions” is stated in the London Plan 3.64) to remain compliant with the London plan. In addition, it should be made reference to “meeting strategic as well as local needs” (London Plan) in line with ensuring “communities mixed and balanced by tenure and household income” (Policy 3.9 London Plan).

Proposed Main Modification: MM73 – DMT1 (Transport)

During the hearing, the inspector suggested that the word “significant” should replace “severe” to qualify cumulative development impact on transport.

The amendment is proposed to reflect paragraph 32 in the NPPF. However officers have only pasted para.32, nothing more. Is it because they cannot transpose at a local level, or because they do not understand the point?

The NPPF is pointing out that “decisions should take account of whether […] improvements can be undertaken within the transport network that cost effectively limit the significant impacts of the development”. Therefore, the NPPF talks about mitigation of “significant” impact that should be reflected within the local plan, instead of only repeating all words of the core planning principle.

Filed under: Planning strategy Local Plan review: Comments on Council’s modifications

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