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					                                          AGENDA NO

                                          PLANNING COMMITTEE

                                          14th July 2010

                                          REPORT OF CORPORATE DIRECTOR,
                                          DEVELOPMENT AND
                                          NEIGHBOURHOOD SERVICES



BRIEFING NOTE ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE ABOLITION OF THE
REGIONAL SPATIAL STRATEGY AND THE COALITION GOVERNMENT’S
PROPOSALS FOR A NEW DEVELOPMENT PLANS SYSTEM.


SUMMARY

This report summarises the latest position with regard to development planning
following Eric Pickles’ announcement of his intention to dismantle the regional
planning system and abolish Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs). It goes on to
describe the Conservative Party’s proposals to “re-boot” the development plans
process as outlined in their green paper “Open Source Planning.”


RECOMMENDATION

That the Planning Committee;

   1. Notes the contents of the report.

BACKGROUND

Introduction

1. The first point to make is that RSS has not yet been abolished and there is
    no definitive guidance on how Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) should
    proceed with regard to its impact on adopted Core Strategies. A further
    announcement is expected to establish how and when RSSs will be
    abolished. It is likely that the government will need to legislate for the
    introduction of a new strategic planning system and any other changes to
    the development plans system, which may take some time. National policy
    statements will also have to be revised to reflect any changes.


Eric Pickles’ Letter

2. In his letter dated 27th May 2010, Eric Pickles has merely stated his
   intention to abolish RSS and has advised that, “decisions on housing
   supply (including the provision of travellers’ sites) will rest with LPAs
   without the framework of regional numbers and plans.” He goes on to state


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   that a formal announcement on abolition will be made soon and that in the
   meantime “LPAs and PINS are to have regard to the letter as a material
   planning consideration in any decisions they are currently taking.”

3. Nor has Mr Pickles stated whether he will revoke only those parts of RSS
   related to housing policy and travellers or all of it. It is worth remembering
   that RSS provides strategic policy guidance on a wide range of issues in
   addition to housing.

4. The Secretary of State is able to abolish all or part of RSS if he finds it
   necessary or expedient to do so under section 79(6) of the Local
   Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.

Planning Inspectorate (PINS) Advice for its Inspectors

5. An advice note produced by PINS for its Inspectors on 10th June 2010
   states that whilst the intention to abolish RSS is a material planning
   consideration, as the revocation has not yet occurred, current RSS
   remains part of the development plan. So until a formal announcement is
   made and/or legislation is implemented, there is no change to what
   constitutes the development plan and the starting point for remains section
   38 (6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (primacy of the
   development plan). It also goes on to advise that it is clear that the
   government’s planning reforms will be based on the document “Open
   Source Planning” and that whilst this highlights the abolition of national
   and regional housing targets, it still supports an up-to-date five-year supply
   of deliverable housing sites as a good baseline from which to work. This is
   a requirement of Planning Policy Statement 3 Housing (PPS3) which has
   been amended but which remains in force. Current PPS3 also states that
   LPAs, which cannot demonstrate a 5-year supply, will be considered
   entirely permissive by default. Stockton can demonstrate a 5-year supply
   of housing land, so there should not be a free for all here.

6. Commentators state that in determining appeals much will depend on the
   weight PINS gives Mr. Pickles’ letter compared with existing legislation.

A Legal Opinion on the Status of the Letter

7. However a leading planning barrister, Peter Village QC, has advised three
   major house builders that Mr. Pickles’ letter would not stand up in court
   and is flawed because it assumes the RSSs do not exist and will be
   abolished but that this is a matter that Parliament has yet to decide. He
   said, “I am completely confident that this letter cannot be given any
   material weight. The weakness lies in the fact that the law says there will
   be a regional strategy and that is what Parliament intends.” It is likely that
   a major house builder will launch a challenge either through judicial review
   or planning inquiry should any of its schemes be refused on the grounds of
   the letter.




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Implications for the Core Strategy

8. The announcement of the abolition of RSS has created a huge amount of
   uncertainty in policy planning. Under the Local Development Framework
   system, Core Strategies and other DPDs have to be in general conformity
   with RSS and, indeed, the Regional Planning Body had to issue a letter
   confirming that this was the case before any DPD could be examined. It
   was also the case that the contents of RSS was not to be repeated in
   lower level documents such as Core Strategies, as the two documents
   were to be read together. Thus RSS policies are interwoven with
   Stockton’s own policies, which are designed to deliver RSS targets. There
   are various interpretations on what the consequences of abolition will be.

9. One scenario is that the abolition of RSS would simply leave the current
   adopted development plan documents in place and depending on the time
   of their adoption this may give effect to RSS policies. So Stockton’s Core
   Strategy (incorporating RSS policies) and saved Local Plan and Alteration
   Number 1 polices would still be extant.

10. However an alternative scenario is that the abolition of RSS will leave a
    significant vacuum in the Core Strategy and that it would be questionable
    whether the remaining sections will be considered adequate or fit for
    purpose. The Council may therefore need to start again.

11. If the second scenario happens to be the case, with regard to the housing
    issue, the Council would have to decide if it is content to retain existing
    RSS targets or if there would be an advantage in determining new local
    housing targets. If it decides the latter:
     Would we do this independently or enter into a voluntary sub regional
         agreement? And what weight would the targets have, bearing in mind
         that RSS was subject to an Independent Examination with binding
         recommendations?
     How would we set targets?
     Calculations would need to be robust enough to withstand scrutiny at
         independent examination and planning appeals.
     Would the Council content with its current locational strategy or might it
         decide a change is required to bring easier to develop sites on stream
         or to fill vacuums left if schemes such as BSF and the hospital
         development at Wynyard (taking into account announcement that the
         North Tees NHS Foundation Trust intends to pursue a Private Finance
         Initiative) do not proceed?

12. Issues may also emerge if the Council decides that it wishes to maximise
    the financial incentives for house building and house builders are resistant
    to developing the brownfield sites in the Core Area. There may be
    pressure to release greenfield land to take advantage of the financial
    incentives which will allow Councils to retain Council tax from new houses
    for a period of six years and to earn 125% Council tax for every affordable
    house built.



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13.In addition the Council would have to develop other local targets, such as
   for renewable energy and employment land. So a lot of groundwork would
   have to begin again.

14. However some commentators are urging the government not to disregard
   work already undertaken and have suggested that although RSS may no
   longer exist, the evidence used to underpin the policies is still valid and
   therefore it may still be acceptable to use RSS targets.

Proposed Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document

15.Mr. Pickles’ letter also states that decisions on whether to provide of gypsy
   and traveller sites can also be made locally. A Tees Valley study identified
   a need for additional pitches in the borough and the latest Local
   Development Scheme identifies that the Council will produce a site
   allocations DPD to address these needs. A decision will have to be made
   on whether this work will continue but another barrister (Gregory Jones)
   has advises caution on abandoning such work because this approach
   might leave Councils grappling with human rights challenges in the future.
   It may also restrict the Council’s ability to take enforcement action against
   unauthorised encampments.

The Shape of Policy Planning to Come?

Open Source Planning Green Paper

16. This section explains the proposals put forward by the conservative party
   prior to the general election in this document. As the Coalition government
   has already taken action to implement certain of these proposals (new
   definition of brownfield land and the abolition of RSS) it looks likely that it
   will implement these changes. However it is worth noting that the Royal
   Town Planning Institute and the Planning Officers’ Society are lobbying the
   Coalition Government hard to try to prevent wholesale change to the
   development plan system after the upheaval following the introduction of
   the Local Development Framework system in 2004. So some of these
   proposals may be implemented and others may not, or may be watered
   down. A formal announcement is awaited.

17. “Open Source Planning” is the Conservative Party’s discussion paper on
   the future of planning and calls for a radical “re-boot” of the English
   planning system, which it considers to be broken. However it does
   acknowledge that planning is vital for a strong economy, an attractive and
   sustainable environment and a successful democracy. The intention is to
   simplify the system and release resources for enforcement and to allow
   planning officers to return to their original role of designing and
   implementing visionary plans for their areas. The solution is an approach
   called Open Source planning where there is a basic national framework of
   planning priorities and policies within which local people and their
   accountable local governments produce their own distinctive local policies
   to create communities that are sustainable, attractive and good to live in.


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18. Plans will be based on neighbourhoods within which local people will be
   able to specify the kind of development and land use they want. In this
   way it is hoped that local communities will be engaged in the plan
   preparation process and this will foster a spirit of innovation and
   entrepreneurship.
   The main principles of this approach are:
    Decentralise and streamline the planning system;
    Make it simpler, quicker, cheaper and less bureaucratic;
    Introduction of a simple consolidated national planning framework;
    Reduced number of simplified guidance notes;
    Maintain designations such as green belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural
       Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental
       designations;
    Abolition of regional planning, national and regional house building
       targets;
    Introduction of flexible zoning;
    Abolish the power of the planning inspector to re-write local plans;
    Using a “collaborative democracy” approach to the preparation of local
       plans to develop plans from the bottom up, starting with the aspirations
       of neighbourhoods;
    Encourage the compilation of Infrastructure Plans;
    A presumption in favour of sustainable development;
    Duty to collaborate for all local authorities and other public authorities;
    Tariff system as compensation for loss of amenity and the cost of
       additional infrastructure.

 A New Approach to Local Plan Preparation

 19.The green paper states that new local plans will have to conform to
    national environmental, architectural, economic and social standards and
    constraints but within this national framework local plans will be
    developed from the bottom up so that they genuinely reflect the will of
    the people and help communities to come together to solve their
    collective problems together. The main elements of these plans will be:
     Evolution of the plan starting at “ground level” with every single
      resident of the neighbourhood approached to take part;
     Provision of good data to electors in the neighbourhood so they can
      develop their vision on a well-informed basis;
     Full involvement of democratic representatives at all levels; parish and
      town councils, ward councillors, accountable residents’ associations
      and other elected representatives;
     A presumption that the modules of the local plan provided by each
      neighbourhood will be incorporated in the final plan unless there are
      strong grounds for modifying them;
     Role for the planning authority in helping neighbourhoods to develop
      their visions and brokering a rational and coherent plan for the area as
      a whole on the basis of negotiation with each of the neighbourhoods


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     and with all the relevant public agencies responsible for infrastructure
     planning and the environment;
    As an incentive, all neighbourhoods will receive a proportion of the
     local tariff raised from all development;
    New local plans to be prepared within a reasonable timescale
     prescribed by the government, if the local authority does not achieve
     this then it will be assumed to have an entirely permissive planning
     approach and all planning applications will be accepted automatically if
     they conform to national planning guidance.

20.Transitional arrangements will be put in place whilst current local plan
   policies remain in place but LPAs will be able to review them and undo
   any unwanted polices imposed by Regional Spatial Strategy.

21.Under the new system housing need, both market and affordable, will be
   determined locally and land identified to accommodate housing to meet
   that need. The 5-year housing land supply is considered a good place to
   start. Best practice guidance will be issued and the calculations will need
   to be robust to withstand legal challenge. The Council tax incentive
   scheme will be used to encourage housing development with an
   enhanced rate available for affordable housing. Local authorities will be
   expected to set out architectural and design standards in local plans.

Provision for Travellers

22.The green paper reaffirms that local authorities have a role to ensure the
   provision of suitable authorised sites to tackle genuine local need in
   consultation with local communities and that recent UK case law has
   clarified that councils need to provide authorised sites locally if they are
   able to take effective action against authorised sites. Where this has
   been done enforcement powers will be strengthened to deal with
   unauthorised development and illegal trespass and a new criminal
   offence of intentional trespass will be introduced. The system of funding
   for traveller sites will also be reformed so that councils are properly
   compensated for new sites and that travellers make a contribution to the
   costs of services on authorised sites. A new British Bill of Rights will
   replace the Human Rights Act. As part of the abolition of regional
   planning, RSS targets for the provision of traveller camps will be
   scrapped as will John Prescott’s controversial guidance on travellers
   (Circular1/06 Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites February
   2006). Retrospective planning permissions will be limited and a legal
   framework will be introduced similar to that existing in the Irish Republic,
   which will enable unauthorised dwellings to be removed.

23.The work on the need for Gypsy and Traveller pitches in the Tees Valley
   was undertaken sub regionally and whilst targets were included in RSS,
   they were superseded by this more locally produced piece of research.




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Retail Planning

24. The green paper states that the needs test will be reintroduced and
   councils will be able to take competition issues into account when
   formulating local plans.

Parking Standards

25.These are to be made a matter for local discretion and more off-street
   parking provision will be encouraged.

Minerals and Waste

26.As with housing, targets for mineral extraction are currently set centrally
   then disaggregated via RSS to individual minerals planning authorities
   (MPAs). The green paper states that, except for nationally strategic
   minerals deposits, where the decision would remain with the Secretary of
   State, MPAs would set their own targets subject to national
   environmental standards.

Rural Planning

27.Rules are to be introduced to prevent the development of the most fertile
   farmland in all but exceptional circumstances and the designation of
   brownfield land will be extended to include land previously occupied by
   agricultural buildings (erected before a specified date) to facilitate the
   development of disused buildings for other purposes. Although the
   definition of brownfield land has been amended in the latest version of
   PPS3, issued in June 2010, to exclude residential land, agricultural land
   has not yet been included in the definition of brownfield land.


Conclusions

28. In determining planning applications the message is clear that until there
   is a formal announcement on abolition, RSS still forms part of the
   development plan and Eric Pickles’ letter is a material planning
   consideration. With regard to policy planning, there is a great deal of
   uncertainty concerning the precise implications of the letter and that
   there are a variety of ways that the consequences could play out, either
   some sort of transitional arrangements which enable RSS policies to be
   “saved” where Core Strategies have recently been adopted and are still
   up-to-date, or the complete abolition of RSS policies which means that
   work will have to start from the beginning again. The Conservatives’
   green paper clearly indicates their intention to implement radical changes
   to the way development plans are prepared. We can only await further
   announcements for more precise guidance but in the meantime Spatial
   Planning is continuing with its current programme of work.




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Corporate Director of Development and Neighbourhood Services
Contact Officer: Rosemary Young
Telephone Number: 01642 526054

Financial Implications – Any minor incremental changes will be dealt with under
existing budgetary provision.

Environmental Implications – N/A

Legal Implications – The abolition of Regional Spatial Strategy will need to be the
subject either of an executive decision by the Secretary of State or amending
legislation before it can be fully implemented, although Mr Pickles’ letter is a material
planning consideration with regard to housing targets. Transitional arrangements will
also need to be enacted before the full implications of the abolition are understood.

Community Safety Implications – N/A

Human Rights Implications – The provisions of the European Convention on
Human Rights 1950 have been taken into account in the preparation of this report.

Background Papers –

Open Source Planning Green Paper.
Eric Pickles’ Letter to Chief Planning Officers dated 27th May 2010.
Planning Inspectorate Advice for its Inspectors dated 10th June 2010.

Ward
The contents of the report are applicable borough wide.




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