Govenment gets tough on local plans

Government gets tough on local plans and Green Belt revisions  
Planning Minister Nick Boles has signalled that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will consider intervening and preventing the adoption of a local plan where a planning inspector has a Green Belt review that is not supported by the local planning authority.

This was signalled in a letter to Planning Inspectorate chief executive Sir Michael Pitt.

In the letter the minister referred to the inspector’s report on the recent examination of the Reigate and Banstead Local Plan. The inspector recommended that the Surrey district council should undertake a review of its Green Belt boundaries.

The minister wrote: “Fundamental to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and to this Government’s planning reforms is the idea that local authorities, and the communities who elect them, are in charge of planning for their own areas. That is why we abolished the top down regional strategies, why we have emphasised the primacy of the Local Plan and why we gave communities the powers to create neighbourhood plans”.

He insisted that the Government had always been clear that the Coalition would maintain “key protections for the countryside and, in particular, for the Green Belt”.

He said:” The NPPF makes clear that a Green Belt boundary may be altered only in exceptional circumstances and reiterates the importance and permanence of the Green Belt. The special role of Green Belt is also recognised in the framing of the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which sets out that authorities should meet objectively assessed needs unless specific policies in the Framework indicate development should be restricted. Crucially, Green Belt is identified as one such policy.”

He added: “It has always been the case that a local authority could adjust a Green Belt boundary through a review of the Local Plan. It must, however, always be transparently clear that it is the local authority itself which has chosen that path – and it is important that this is reflected in the drafting of Inspectors’ reports.”

He concluded by saying a copy of his letter should be circulated to all inspectors. He asked Sir Michael to ensure all inspectors understood “the need to choose their words carefully and reflect government policy very clearly in all future reports”.

A Planning Inspectorate spokesperson said: “The Planning Inspectorate’s role is to deliver the Government’s planning policies in accordance with the law and inspectors always take fully into account Government guidance in respect of protecting Green Belt when examining local plans and deciding appeals.

“All inspectors have received a copy of the minister’s letter and will ensure that their reports make it clear that it is the Local Authority that requests modifications to their local plan, including Green Belt boundaries.”

Download the letter (PDF).

Roger Milne

13 March 2014



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