Why local authorities need to stop halting planning in its tracks

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planning decisions

Last month, a successful planning appeal saw Lincoln Enterprise Park’s expansion plan for the next phase of this established scheme finally approved, after the local authority initially rejected the proposals. Shruti Trivedi, partner and planning solicitor at Roythornes Solicitors, explains how policy-driven rather than pragmatic local authority decisions are delaying progress for businesses, communities and the UK economy

The government’s New Deal, announced in June 2020, promised to deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure through a “build, build, build” initiative. However, there is often continued resistance from local authorities to approve the planning decisions that will enable this agenda.

From commercial developments, including offices and business parks, to residential projects such as retirement villages and housing estates, we are seeing rejections across the board from committees seemingly keen to put policy over people. Even sustainable energy schemes and town regenerations are subject to the iron fist of local decision making, should they occupy too much space or block certain views, which are usually entirely subjective judgements.

Of course, concerns for the local environment and the wellbeing of the community should always be taken with the utmost seriousness but we are now seeing an overwhelming number of planning applications rejected without a sensible and balanced consideration of the benefits of each scheme. Development, or as it’s often dubbed, “over-development”, is seen as inherently bad, but it’s important to remember that new developments bring progress, growth and jobs, in turn elevating a town or city.

Oversimplified approach to planning decisions

In the case of a recent successful planning appeal for the expansion of Lincoln Enterprise Park, a very welcome decision was made to allow the scheme to go ahead, despite it being initially rejected on the grounds of being in open countryside.

Although the extension will indeed occupy some rural land, the development has been designed with environmental sensitivity, adding native trees, hedgerows and wildflowers to the site. The plans include significant ecological and biodiversity enhancements and will have no concerning landscape or visual impact on a location just off the A46 where there is already an existing development in situ.

In addition to the environmental mitigation, the expansion of the business park will also bring 50 new jobs to the area and offer 15 mixed-use units to local businesses, most of whom are existing customers with a real demand for additional space for growth.

The events of the planning application and appeal for Lincoln Enterprise Park are a prime example of an oversimplified approach to planning decisions. Far from tarring every development with the same brush, committees and local authorities must consider the holistic benefits of each scheme, looking at the details of each project and evaluating its net benefit, rather than finding reasons to arbitrarily reject proposals.

Taking a narrow approach and rejecting a scheme on points of policy alone can halt progress, contradicting the government’s New Deal approach, and prove costly in both time and money. Ultimately, this will harm the local communities that authorities are striving to protect and hinder growth for the local and national economy.

Despite a strong, clear and welcoming approach to development promised by the government, we are seeing resistance from local authorities and planning committees time and time again. The stigma of the “big, bad developer” needs to be quelled and replaced with the understanding that development is indeed what it says on the tin – expansion, growth and improvement – for communities and the people that constitute them.

The Lincoln Enterprise Park appeal involved a comprehensive team of experts instructed by the client, Nicholas Falkinder of LEP Developments, and including Shruti Trivedi of Roythornes as legal adviser, Nick Grace of Grace Machin as planning consultant, Dan Rontree of Heronswood Architectural Design as architect, Sara Boland of Influence as landscape consultant and Sam Elkington of Boothby Property Consultancy as providing financial viability input.

 

 

 

Shruti Trivedi

Partner and planning solicitor

Roythornes Solicitors

Tel: +44 (0)1775 842 810

shrutitrivedi@roythornes.co.uk

www.roythorne.co.uk

Twitter: @Roythornes

LinkedIn: Roythornes

YouTube: Roythornes

3 COMMENTS

  1. I am very disappointed and quite surprised to see Shruti Trivedi describe Dan Rontree of Heronswood Architectural Design as an architect, when he is not. As a solicitor, surely Shruti must be well aware of the Architects Act 1997 and the restriction of use of the title ‘architect’ to those on the ARB Register. Such a casual breach of law undermines the credibility of both the author and this newsletter.

    I look forward to seeing a future PBC Today article explaining the difference between architects and non-architects and referencing the associated legislation.

  2. The planning profession is intellectually bankrupt and working to rule because of the drift towards excessive prescription, excessive amounts of policies and the “fear of the press” or other backlash. And who can blame the officers for protecting their pensions and not sticking their neck out.

    Development control used to be a sensible conversation between informed adults, working to general principals. It takes a brave officer or authority to go against the current trend and return to common sense interpretation.

    I just checked and we are doing 4 no. £750K-£1m extension/ancillary building projects in the green belt where the town planning approval and appeal route has completely failed, and so we have turned to PD / PA, with a successful outcome for what was previously rejected at appeal. The impact on the Green Belt is absolutely no different. Development control will see its own demise as resentment rises and national politics under conservative leadership moves under pressure from the electorate to “less government” ways of releasing development.

  3. Absolutely agree with Shruti’s comments particularly arbitrarily rejection of planning proposals by planning committees.

    Some councils are productive and pulling their weight with good build rates, but some are entrenched in negative rejection by default but the added problem is housing delivery test failure places the LPA into presumption status, but the housing ministry does nothing about it.

    There are no consequences for LPAs with serious under delivery as no penalty is applied and they continue to reject more often than not with negative predetermination of applications. Policies dated from 25 years ago are still used to reject applications even though one particular council is in in full presumption status for a delivery failure rate of 34%.

    It does not help that the average appeal success rate is currently only around 23% and many of the Inspectorate decisions tend to support the LPA and maintain the status quo rather than encouraging development and supporting developers. I think it is the case that far more work has to be put in by an appeal inspector to agree with an application and pass it, than needs to be put in to refuse an application, so often the easy way out is taken.

    It should be possible for the inspectorate to mitigate planning issues and modify applications to make them acceptable but unfortunately this does not occur and most are rejected.

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