Examining Development Plan Documents ... - Planning Portal

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Examining Development Plan Documents ... - Planning Portal

L o c a l Dev e lo p m e n t Fr a m e w o r k sE x a minin g D ev e l o p m e n t Pl a n D o c um e n t s:Le a r nin g f r o m E x p e r i e n c eSeptember 2009


Contents• Ministerial Foreword Page 3• Introduction Page 4• Procedural and Administrative Matters Page 4• Content Page 5• Critical Issues Page 5• Planning for Uncertainty Page 6• Housing Land Supply Including the Use of Windfalls Page 6• Delivery Page 7- Land identification Page 7- Infrastructure planning Page 7- Cross boundary dependencies Page 9• Strategic Sites Page 9• Evidence Page 9• Options and an Audit Trail Page 10• Green Belts Page 11• Waste Plans Page 11• Proposals Maps Page 12• Development Management Policies Page 13• The Examination and Report Page 14- Late changes Page 14- Assumption of soundness Page 14- The report Page 14• Conclusions Page 142 Local Development Frameworks


Ministerial ForewordLocal Development Frameworks are central to the delivery of sustainable communities. The Governmentexpects progress to pick up accordingly and for local authorities to be confident in taking the strategicdecisions for their area without unnecessary delays. As local authorities continue to make progress withLDFs, learning from their own and others’ experience who have sound plans in place is very worthwhile.The key messages of a sensible pragmatic approach to gathering evidence and succinct plan policiesand proposals relevant to the specific characteristics of the local community clearly come through in thisdocument. They should be taken on board by those preparing and submitting development plans to theSecretary of State.Ian Austin MPParliamentary Under Secretary of StateCommunities and Local GovernmentExamining Development Plan Documents: Learning from Experience 3


Introduction1. In June 2007 we produced our first LessonsLearnt document. This Learning from Experience –2009 document seeks to update the 2007 materialin the light of the experience we have gainedfrom examining approaching 100 DevelopmentPlan Documents (DPDs) submitted between June2007 and August 2009, discussions with a widevariety of interested parties and over 90 visitswe have carried out to local authorities as partof an Early Engagement project. The documentdoes not aim to be comprehensive or concentrateon procedural matters – which are covered inthe Inspectorate’s Examining Development PlanDocuments: Procedure Guidance (August 20092nd Edition) 1 and the CLG Manual 2 hosted bythe Planning Advisory Service (PAS) – itconcentrates on matters that commonly arise andwhich seem to us to be of general interest.Procedural and AdministrativeMatters2. The Procedure Guidance issued by theInspectorate has been well received and evidentlyprovides adequate guidance as few proceduralproblems have been encountered.Authorities are required to supply a statement ofthe issues raised in the representations; but thereis no need to summarise all the representationsunless the Inspector requests this.3. Under Regulation 30(1)(e) of The Town andCountry Planning (Local Development)(England)Regulations 2004 (as amended) 3 authorities arerequired to supply a statement of the issues raisedin the representations. Most authorities have donethis in a succinct way but a few have producedvery extensive statements that go into far moredetail than is necessary. This approach is likelyto have unnecessarily extended the time betweenpublication and submission. The important pointis that the critical issues are identified and brieflyarticulated. There is no need to summarise therepresentations (unless the Inspector requeststhis), which will always be supplied to theInspector.Authorities must be diligent about keeping theGovernment Offices fully informed of changes totheir programmes on a regular and timely basis.4. Local Development Schemes (LDSs) have notto date proved to be useful to the Inspectoratefor planning the use of our resources. LDSs wereseen in the 2004 reform of the development plansystem as a key project planning tool. The factthat they have proved to be unreliable is a problemnot only for the Inspectorate and the Governmentbut also for authorities’ own stakeholders andcommunities who are entitled to regard the LDSas an accurate record of what and when DPDsare to be produced. It follows that the databasekept by Communities and Local Government(CLG), which is based on the LDS dates andupdated by the Government Offices, has notproved to be adequate for our inspector resourceplanning purposes. It would help considerably iflocal authorities were diligent about keeping theGovernment Offices fully informed of changes intheir programmes on a regular and timely basis.There is in addition the clear expectation thatlocal authorities provide “real time” informationon their web sites in relation to the progress ofcore strategies 4 .Footnotes1View the Planning Inspectorate’s Procedure Guidance:http://www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk/pins/appeals/local_dev/dpd_procedure_guide_aug09.pdfAlso note the Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Development Plan Documents: Soundness Guidance (August2009 2nd Edition):http://www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk/pins/appeals/local_dev/ldf_testing_soundnessaug09.pdf2View the CLG Plan Making Manual:http://www.pas.gov.uk/pas/core/page.do?pageId=1097983View the 2004 Regulations:http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2004/uksi_20042204_en.pdfView the amending 2008 Regulations:http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/pdf/uksi_20081371_en.pdfView the amending 2009 Regulations:http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2009/pdf/uksi_20090401_en.pdf4See Planning Policy Statement 12: Local Spatial Planning (PPS12) paragraph 4.54:http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/pps12lsp.pdf4 Local Development Frameworks


5. Every DPD must include a list of the existingsaved policies that will be superseded by policiesin the DPD when adopted 5 . Some local authoritiesare not always clear which policies are to bereplaced and this could lead to an overlap orcontradictions between policies.ContentAuthorities should be clear about what each DPDis intended to deliver. All DPDs should be conciseand focussed and convey the essential messagesin a clear and engaging way. All DPDs should besubject to rigorous, purposeful editing and proofreading.6. A council’s suite of DPD documents has tomake clear: what, how much, where, when andhow development will be delivered 6 . Each DPDwithin the Local Development Framework (LDF)has a role to play and each document should becoherent, consistent and not repeat material setout in another DPD. It seems that on occasionsauthorities are not clear enough about what eachDPD is intended to deliver. In particular the corestrategy must make the tough decisions and notleave them for subsequent DPDs. (Note sectionon Critical Issues below.)7. Many of the DPDs submitted are very descriptiveand contain a great deal of repetition of somematerial, including, but not only, of the “how wegot to where we are” variety. All DPDs should besubject to rigorous, purposeful editing and proofreading. The document should be concise andfocussed and convey the essential messages ina clear and engaging way. Material commentingon the outcomes of previous consultation shouldform part of the evidence base not part of thesubmitted DPD. In many core strategies theessential strategy is obscured, or even lost, in amass of unnecessary descriptive material muchof which seems to have been included either forpublic relations purposes or at the request of thirdparties without critical assessment as to whetherit is really necessary.8. The core strategy should be a brief documentconveying the main elements of the spatial visionand strategy. It should give a clear message aboutthe ways in which the area will change by its enddate providing a clear spatial expression of therelevant aspects of the Sustainable CommunityStrategy (SCS). The plan should draw togetherpolicy strands at a district, town or neighbourhoodlevel. Generic statements and vague aspirationsthat could apply anywhere will not lead to adeliverable and worthwhile plan.Critical IssuesThe core strategy should focus relentlessly on thecritical issues that relate to the way the area isintended to develop and the strategies to addressthe critical issues identified. Leaving criticalquestions to be answered in subsequent DPDsor Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) islikely to lead to a finding of unsoundness.9. The starting point for core strategies shouldbe the identification of the critical issues that thecouncil and its delivery partners are seeking toaddress. In identifying these critical issues regardshould be had to the council’s SCS and any LocalArea Agreement (LAA). However some SCSs arevery general with little indication of prioritiesor means of implementation and care needs tobe taken to avoid the core strategy falling intothe same trap. The core strategy should focusrelentlessly on the critical issues and the strategiesto address them. Too many core strategiesresemble local plans or Unitary DevelopmentPlans (UDP) in that they seek to address a fullrange of topics irrespective of whether these topicareas contain critical issues that relate to the waythe area is intended to develop. So, for example,there is little need for any detail on matters suchas tourism if the area is not one where tourism isan important consideration.10. Part of the difficulty is probably that thecritical issues often raise difficult and possiblyuncomfortable questions. However the wholepoint about a locally distinctive core strategy isthat it seeks to address this sort of question as faras possible. In some instances there is a tendencyto leave the critical questions to be answered insubsequent DPDs or SPDs. Such an approach islikely to lead to a finding of unsoundness as thecore strategy is the place for these difficult issuesto be addressed. Authorities should take note ofthe decision of Mr Justice Keith in the High Courtcase of Associated British Ports v HampshireCounty Council and others 7 .Footnotes5Regulation 13(5)6See PPS12 paragraph 4.1(3)7View the judgement:http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2008/1540.htmlExamining Development Plan Documents: Learning from Experience 5


“The difficulty with the approach adopted in theCore Strategy is that it did not take account ofthe need for the Core Strategy itself to set out thestrategy for ensuring that the anticipated demandfor crushed rock would be met. Since that was theplace for tough strategic decisions to be made, itwas not right for the critical question- whether theexisting facilities were sufficient to cope with theanticipated demand – to be left to a subsequentreview of these facilities.”Planning for UncertaintyA plan will not be found unsound just becauseuncertainty exists. The important things are thatthis is explicitly acknowledged, that the implicationsof the uncertainty are taken into account and the“what if” situations are considered.11. Some planning authorities give the impressionof wanting the “perfect” plan. This is not possible,particularly in the present difficult economicclimate. A plan will not be found unsound justbecause uncertainty exists and is explicitlyacknowledged in the DPD. The important thingsare for the implications of the uncertainty to betaken into account and the “what if” situationconsidered. Some authorities have addressedthe situation by making reference to a range ofpossible outcomes. This is acceptable if it is notpossible to be more precise. Spurious precision isnot helpful and is potentially misleading. Whereuncertainties exist that may affect the deliveryof strategic development requirements, plannedcontingencies with appropriate monitoring andtrigger mechanisms need to be included.12. The degree of uncertainty may be reduced withtime and this is a matter that should be expresslyconsidered in the monitoring section 8 . Someauthorities appear to see the monitoring sectionas merely a checklist without recognising thepositive aspects of it as a means of adapting theplan as circumstances change or become clearer.Regrettably many plans contain monitoringsections that give the impression of havingbeen drafted as an afterthought. Furthermore,surprisingly few plans make reference to relatedmonitoring arrangements such as Core OutputIndicators and National Indicators in LAAs.13. Clearly a wide variety of factors can causeuncertainty. These may include a review of theregional strategy or national issues that are atthis stage unresolved such as policies relating toairport expansion, energy generation and transportthat the plan making authority may feel they haverelatively little influence over. Uncertainty of thisnature should not be used as an excuse for notputting a core strategy in place. Where there isa realistic possibility that such a matter may bea relevant consideration the implications shouldbe dealt with, at least as an option, even if theauthority is opposed to such an option. Thereis little point in putting in place a strategy thatignores a matter that would (if it came about)have a major impact on the area.DPDs, particularly core strategies, are intended toguide development over the long term. Exceptionaleconomic conditions should not be used as anexcuse for delay and plans should be based onwhat may be regarded as normal conditions.14. The economic climate is also clearly a factorthat can cause great uncertainty. However DPDs,particularly core strategies, are intended to guidedevelopment over the long term. Accordinglyexceptional economic conditions should not beused as an excuse for delay and plans shouldbe based on what may be regarded as normalconditions. If exceptional economic conditionspersist the monitoring arrangements shouldidentify the implications of this and point to whatchanges may need to be made to the plan. The LDFsystem is deliberately designed to allow effectivereview of all or parts of a DPD as circumstancesdictate. This flexibility does not appear to alwaysbe appreciated.Housing Land Supply Including theUse of WindfallsAny consideration of a Strategic Housing LandAvailability Assessment (SHLAA) 9 at a DPD examinationwill be aimed at establishing whetherit is sufficiently robust to justify and support thedelivery of the plan.15. An authority should have identified the potentialhousing land supply in a SHLAA. This should beprepared in consultation with the developmentindustry and should aim to identify as many ofthe potential housing sites in the area as possible.The DPD will then seek to decide which of theseidentified sites should be allocated for housing. TheSHLAA thus forms part of the evidence base and isnot examined in its own right. Any considerationFootnotes8See PPS12 paragraph 4.479View the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment Practice Guidance:http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/landavailabilityassessment6 Local Development Frameworks


of a SHLAA at a DPD examination will be aimedat establishing whether it is sufficiently robust tojustify and support the delivery of the plan.16. A number of authorities have sought advice onhow to proceed in the absence of a SHLAA. Wherean authority does not have a SHLAA in place anyavailable evidence of housing land supply shouldbe updated as far as possible taking into accountthe basic principles underlying SHLAAs. TheInspector will not find a plan unsound becausethere is no SHLAA in place provided the housingsupply evidence is up to date, convincing and inaccordance with the guidance in Planning PolicyStatement 3: Housing (PPS3) 10 .A site identified in a SHLAA cannot be regarded asa windfall site even if it has not been chosen asone of the allocated sites.17. Windfalls are sites that have not beenidentified in the plan preparation process andhence unexpectedly become available. They areunforeseen and unplanned-for sites. Hence a siteidentified in a SHLAA cannot be regarded as awindfall site even if it has not been chosen as oneof the allocated sites.18. In assessing whether or not an adequatesupply of housing land exists some authoritieshave sought to start the process by reducingthe required amount by an anticipated windfallallowance on the basis that this is the amount ofhousing land that has historically come forwardfrom windfalls. This approach is not acceptable.The starting point has to be the allocation ofdeliverable land for housing. PPS3 paragraph59 makes it very clear that windfalls cannot beincluded in the first 10 years of land supply unlessthe authority can provide robust evidence ofgenuine local circumstances that prevent specificsites being identified. The fact that land has in thepast come forward from windfalls and is expectedto continue to come forward, is not a justificationfor including windfalls.19. Many authorities are clearly finding the needto identify land for the longer term (11 to 15years ahead) very challenging. Even in years 11to 15 if it is not possible to identify sites, PPS3requires the identification of broad locations forfuture growth. In some instances local authoritiesare relying on an element of windfalls in the 11plus years period. Inspectors have accepted thisapproach where the authorities have been ableto convincingly show that it is the only practicalapproach in their circumstances. However theexpectation is that as time elapses SHLAAs will beupdated and social and economic change will leadto the emergence of potential new housing land.Delivery20. One of the key elements of the LDF systemis the delivery of the vision of the council andits partners for the area. The effectiveness testin Planning Policy Statement 12: Local SpatialPlanning (PPS12) 11 is essentially about delivery.Despite its critical importance this is an areawhere many plans are notably weak.Land identification21. In some instances the weakness derives froma failure to identify sufficient and/or appropriateland for development. Sometimes this appears toderive from a reluctance to accept that unpopulardecisions about allocating land, possibly green fieldland, for development have to be made. Simplyclaiming that development needs will be metwithin the urban areas and that the position will bereviewed if necessary in the future is not likely tobe acceptable unless there is a evidence that the“urban areas only” approach is likely to be realistic.Where the scale of land needed for developmentis such that green field allocations are likely to berequired the strategy should make this clear. Inthis example if the DPD is a core strategy it shouldeither make strategic allocations or give adequateguidance for a subsequent site allocations DPD toreadily identify the land needed without having tore-visit strategic considerations.Infrastructure planningThe amount of detail that it is possible to supplywith regard to infrastructure planning is likely to beless certain and comprehensive for the later stagesof the plan period. Critical dependencies need tobe identified; the council may consider breakingthese infrastructure requirements down intoessential and desirable categories. Inspectors willtake a realistic view about what can be provided solong as the council has made reasonable attemptsto engage with the infrastructure providers.Footnotes10View PPS3:http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/pps3housing11View PPS12:http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/pps12lsp.pdfExamining Development Plan Documents: Learning from Experience 7


22. Many authorities are finding the infrastructureelement of delivery very challenging. It has tobe accepted that the amount of detail that it ispossible to supply is likely to be less certain andcomprehensive for the later stages of the planperiod. Inspectors are not seeking an impossiblelevel of detail far into the future. However forat least the first 5 years of the plan it should beclear what infrastructure is required, who is goingto fund and provide it and how it is to relate tothe rate of development. In a number of instancessubmitted plans did not make it clear whether keypartners were signed up for such infrastructureprovision. Before the plan can be found soundsuch a deficiency would need to be adequatelyaddressed.23. Critical dependencies need to be identifiedand it may be that the council needs to considerbreaking down infrastructure requirements intoessential and desirable categories. In a numberof instances the infrastructure content of plansamounts to little more than a generalised andhighly ambitious “wish list” with no indication ofhow viable the schemes are, how critical they areto the delivery of the plan or whether there is areasonable prospect of implementation withinany required timetable 12 . Where an element ofinfrastructure is critical but it is uncertain whetherit can be delivered, the plan should deal with thequestion of what the consequences are and whatcontingency arrangements may be possible – inother words the “what if” question.24. Clearly many planning authorities are findingit difficult to effectively engage with some ofthe infrastructure providers. In some instancesthere appears to be very little that a planningauthority can do about this – for example wherean infrastructure provider refuses to supplyinformation on the grounds of commercialconfidentiality. In instances such as this, theInspector will take a realistic view about whatthe council can provide so long as the council hasmade all reasonable attempts to engage with theinfrastructure provider in question. Councils whoface these sorts of difficulties should provide, inthe evidence base, details of what steps they havetaken and what assumptions have been made inresponse to the difficulties. In instances where aninfrastructure provider is not co-operating withthe plan making authority the Inspector may seekto have the provider attend the examination toexplain its position.25. One approach to infrastructure planning isset out in the PAS document, A steps approachto infrastructure planning and delivery 13 . Thisemphasises how important it is for plan preparationto be a corpo-rate activity and for the plan makersto actively engage with bodies and organisationssuch as the Local Strategic Partnership. Planningauthorities are sometimes not as alert as theyshould be about bodies that can be of assistance.However whatever approach is adopted shouldbe proportionate and realistic to the level ofinfrastructure that is needed to deliver a plan.26. It is clear that on occasions there is a conflictbetween the level of detail expected by aninfrastructure provider and the content of corestrategies. This is another area where a balancehas to be struck and the Inspector will seek totake a pragmatic view. Planning authorities andinfrastructure providers should as a minimumcome to the examination with a statement ofcommon ground that includes consideration of thekey infrastructure elements. Some plans containproposals that depend on major infrastructureprojects without any support from the infrastructureprovider. These do sometimes appear to be includedas a tactical means of adding weight to the casefor the provision of the infrastructure. This tacticis not helpful as it suggests that the strategy maywell not be deliverable and an authority usingthis tactic will be faced with challenging questionsabout how effective the strategy is.27. The detail regarding planned infrastructurecan be set out in supporting evidence such as anInfrastructure Delivery Programme which can beupdated regularly. However it is essential thatthe key infrastructure elements on which deliveryof the strategy is dependent are embeddedin the core strategy itself. A useful question toask is “how does this DPD advance the deliveryof needed infrastructure?”. Some plans simplysummarise existing infrastructure plans. Such anapproach leads to difficulties at the examinationbecause it fails to adequately relate infrastructureto the effectiveness of the DPD. PPS12 saysthat the infrastructure planning process shouldidentify and have evidence for, amongst othermatters, cost and funding sources. Therefore ifthe intention is that the development itself willfund the infrastructure, viability evidence will beneeded to show that such an approach is realisticand capable of delivering the infrastructure at anappropriate time.Footnotes12Refer to PPS12 paragraph 4.1013View the PAS approach:http://www.pas.gov.uk/pas/aio/1091218 Local Development Frameworks


Cross boundary dependencies28. There are a number of instances where anauthority is relying on an adjoining authority totake some of its growth allocation – often someof its housing allocation. The basis for this interdependencyusually lies in the Regional SpatialStrategy (RSS). If this is the case the overallvalidity of the approach will not be open to questionat the core strategy stage as the respective corestrategies have to conform in general terms to theRSS.A conflict between authorities about crossboundary dependencies is likely to lead to a findingof unsoundness for all the strategies involved.29. The ideal in this situation is for formal jointworking arrangements to be put in place. Where ajoint core strategy is not being done the respectivedocuments need to be examined at broadly thesame time as clearly the cross boundary issuesneed to be resolved in a complementary way.In instances such as this the Inspectorate willdo all that it can to facilitate effective workingby for example appointing the same Inspectorto undertake the examinations consecutively ora team of Inspectors who will ensure that therespective strategies are co-ordinated. A conflictbetween authorities about the cross boundarydependencies is likely to lead to a finding ofunsoundness for all the strategies involved.Strategic SitesThe level of detail required for a strategic site willin practice depend on when the site is expectedto come forward. The core strategy should makeclear how the development will be advanced. Anystrategic site allocations will need to be clearlydefined including all the land needed to deliverthat development.30. A site is strategic if the delivery of the corestrategy is dependent on it 14 . There is a tendencyfor some to interpret this as meaning a largehousing, retail, employment or mixed use site.Clearly this will often be the case but not always.For example if a core strategy has as one of its mainelements an improved public transport service, astrategic site could be for a new bus station orroad/rail interchange facility. Hence there is aneed to keep an open mind about what constitutesa strategic site. The implication of making astrategic site an allocation in a core strategy isthat the development will not usually need to beFootnotesaddressed in a subsequent DPD. The core strategyshould make clear how the development will beadvanced – for example through a master planor SPD.31. Many authorities have raised questions aboutthe level of detail required should they wish toinclude strategic allocations in their core strategiesin accordance with the encouragement givenin PPS12. Obviously the inclusion of strategicallocations in core strategies will add to the rangeand detail of work needed to justify the corestrategy. As with infrastructure the level of detailwill in practice depend on when the site is expectedto come forward. For a site anticipated in the earlyyears of the plan there is an expectation thatthe detailed delivery matters such as availabilityand infrastructure requirements will have beenresolved. Matters that impact on the rest ofthe plan area (such as the scale and nature ofdevelopment) will also need to have been resolved.On the other hand those that only impact on thesite itself, such as the internal road layout forexample, do not need to be detailed.32. Any strategic sites that are allocated will needto be clearly defined including all the land neededto deliver that development. Therefore a corestrategy that contains a strategic site or sites will,in addition to the key diagram, have to show howthe proposals map will be updated if the DPD isadopted. (See Proposals Maps below.)EvidenceEvidence should be proportionate and shouldinform what is in the plan rather than beingcollected retrospectively in an attempt to justifythe plan. The Inspector will only delve deeply ifthe plan cannot be justified because the evidenceseems to be absent, flawed or out-dated.33. A recurring query is the level of detail requiredin the evidence base. A high proportion of plansare submitted with large amounts of evidencethat does not appear to inform the content ofthe plan. Presumably this is because authoritiesare fearful that plans will be found unsound onthe basis of inadequate justification. This isentirely understandable but groundless. Theguiding principles are that the evidence should beproportionate and it should inform what is in theplan rather than being collected retrospectivelyin an attempt to justify the plan. The examiningInspector will only delve deeply if the plan cannotbe justified because the evidence seems to beabsent, flawed or out-dated.14For more information see PPS12 paragraph 4.6Examining Development Plan Documents: Learning from Experience 9


The evidence required will depend on whatissues the DPD seeks to address and on localcircumstances. Conflicts in the evidence basemust be clearly explained.34. We are frequently asked for a list of whatevidence is required. It is not possible or sensibleto supply a list as the evidence must depend onwhat issues the DPD seeks to address and on localcircumstances. Where a plan involves, for example,an area which is prone to flooding the expectationis that the flooding evidence will be far moreextensive than for an area where there is little riskof flooding. The most helpful approach is for theevidence base to be clearly signposted throughoutthe DPD text by, for example, the use of footnotes.On occasions some of the recommendations of astudy forming part of the evidence base are notaccepted by a council. In such cases care needs tobe taken to ensure that an explanation is providedof why the recommendation was rejected. Alsoconflicts within the evidence base must beexplained. Where lengthy explanations are neededit is best if a separate supporting document, crossreferenced to the DPD, is used.35. Our experience is that affordable housing isan area where large amounts of evidence of needis provided but often there is very little, if any,evidence about how deliverable the affordablehousing targets are. Possibly this is because manyauthorities have extensive experience of housingneeds surveys but little experience of viabilitytesting. Frequently much of the detail in the needssurveys is not used to inform the content of theplan. The only element that is used is the relativelystraightforward and easily obtained conclusion thatthere is a need for a large amount of affordablehousing in the area. Costly detailed informationthat goes beyond simply demonstrating housingneed may be required for some other purpose butif it is not used for formulating the strategy orpolicy in the plan there is no need for it as partof the evidence base. On the other hand, as theBlyth Valley judgement 15 shows, there is a crucialneed for viability evidence.36. The important point is that authorities shouldhave a very clear idea about what they needevidence for, how they are going to use it andhow much detail they need to go into. Someparties appear to believe that the evidence baseis tested in its own right. This is not the case. Theevidence base will be subject to scrutiny only tothe extent of how adequate it is to justify what isin the plan.37. In a typical core strategy the background spatialand planning context should be in the evidencebase. The reasonable major alternatives shouldbe dealt with in the Sustainability Appraisal (SA).Evidence of the engagement process with the localcommunity and the main issues raised should bein the Regulation 30 documents, not in the DPD 16 .A Strategic Housing Market Assessment andSHLAA are important for showing how the planwill enable the right amount of housing, at theright time, in the right place to be delivered. Theneed for and amount of detail in any other studiesneeds to be judged on the basis of issues that theplan seeks to address.Options and an Audit TrailIf options are limited there is no point in trying toartificially create options. Options are more thansimply the location of development.38. In some instances it appears that options areidentified for the sake of having options ratherthan because they are realistic. Authorities shouldclearly be open-minded and receptive to new ideasbut it is not helpful to include options that cannotbe delivered. If the options are limited there is nopoint in trying to artificially create options. This isa waste of resources and confusing. Where thereare no or few options the reason for this should beclearly explained. In some instances this may beobvious - for example, a minerals plan may havefew if any options given that minerals can onlybe worked where they exist. In other instancesa detailed explanation of why there are limitedoptions may need to be provided.39. Some authorities appear to focus theirthinking about options simply on the location ofdevelopment forgetting that the notion of optionsincludes matters such as density, the rate ofdevelopment, delivery mechanisms etc.Far more rigorous thought should be given atthe outset to what sort of sustainability evidenceis needed. Sustainability Appraisal is wherethe consideration and assessment of the mainalternatives should be found.Footnotes15View Blyth Valley Borough Council v Persimmon Homes (North East) Limited, Barratt Homes Limited & MillhouseDevelopments Limited:http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/861.html16See Regulation 30(1)(d) and 30(1)(e)10 Local Development Frameworks


40. In examining some plans it has not been asclear as it might be how and why the final strategyhas been selected from the options originallypresented. The role of the SA 17 in the choice issometimes not clearly articulated despite thepresentation of vast amounts of sustainability data.The SA is part of the evidence base and hencethe basic principle is that the SA should informthe content of the plan 18 . Thus the SA is wherethe consideration and assessment of the mainalternatives should be found. Many authoritieshave submitted SAs containing a mass of materialthat does not obviously contribute to the contentof the plan. Our impression is that often far morerigorous thought needs to be given at the outsetto what sort of sustainability evidence is needed.41. In some instances a hybrid of the initial optionsis selected. This is not necessarily a problem butauthorities need to be certain that the choice of ahybrid option does not undermine the frontloadingprocess or the sustainability work that hasbeen done. Where a hybrid strategy is selectedInspectors will need evidence that SA work hasbeen updated and the approach has not led toconfusion nor circumvented the sustainabilityappraisal process.Green BeltsIn the absence of a requirement in the RSS toreview the Green Belt boundary, any changemust be justified by exceptional circumstances.If this is essential in order to accommodateneeded development, it is likely to be a strategicconsideration for an authority and should be dealtwith as a tough decision in a core strategy. Minoradjustments to remove boundary anomaliesshould be undertaken in a lower level DPD. Anychanges proposed to a Green Belt boundary mustbe shown in map form.42. There is evidently some concern about how alocal authority deals with possible changes to theextent of the Green Belt. The basic principle aboutthe permanence of the Green Belt is clearly wellunderstood. In some instances the adopted RSSincludes provision for a strategic review of theGreen Belt and in others some local adjustmentsto the Green Belt are justified. There are examplesof these local adjustments both adding to andtaking away land from the Green Belt.43. A judgement needs to be made about whethera change is strategic or local and this is a source ofsome concern for authorities given the confusionthat a local adjustment could, indeed should, beundertaken in the council’s strategic document -the core strategy. A local adjustment is one thatis not based on a RSS policy - rather it is basedon local needs and an assessment of how well theexisting Green Belt boundary serves the purposesof national Green Belt policy.44. In the absence of a requirement in the RSSto review the Green Belt boundary, authoritiesare, quite rightly, alert to the need for any changeto be justified by exceptional circumstances.If this is essential in order to accommodateneeded development it is likely to be a strategicconsideration for the authority although it maynot be strategic in the regional sense. Hence itshould be dealt with as one of the tough decisionsthat need to be taken and justified in the council’score strategy.45. Minor adjustments to remove boundaryanomalies that may, for example, have arisenbecause of changed patterns of developmentshould be undertaken in a lower level DPD ifpossible. This is to avoid introducing minor nonstrategicmatters into a core strategy.46. Any changes proposed, large or small, needto be shown in map form (preferably inset maps)so that anyone wanting to make representationsknows precisely where the proposed boundary is.This applies to any proposed boundary changesnot just those relating to the Green Belt.Waste PlansA waste strategy should indicate what wastemanagement developments and facilities arerequired; where they are to be located; when theyare to be provided; and how they will be delivered.A number of the waste plans that have beenwithdrawn failed to give sufficient geographicaldirection for subsequent site allocation DPDs andto enable planning applications to be determinedon a plan led basis. The criteria used to identifysites in an allocation DPD that follows on from acore strategy must be explicit.Footnotes17Further reading on SA:http://www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planning/sustainabilityenvironmental/sustainabilityappraisalsa/18The integral role of the SA is explained in paragraphs 4.36 to 4.47, 4.51 and 4.52 of PPS12Examining Development Plan Documents: Learning from Experience 11


47. A high proportion of the submitted waste planshave been withdrawn which indicates that thereare problems in this area. Essentially, the wastestrategy should indicate what waste managementdevelopments and facilities are required; wherethey are to be located; when they are to beprovided; and how they will be delivered. Oneissue appears to be the extent to which wasteplans should take account of procurement mattersand the availability of sites already owned by thewaste operators. PPS12 at paragraph 3.1 makesit clear that planning for waste should be treatedin the same way as planning for any other type ofdevelopment and CLG has consistently pointed outthat waste disposal must be plan led. A numberof the waste plans that have been withdrawnfailed to give sufficient geographical direction forsubsequent site allocation DPDs and to enableplanning applications to be determined on a planled basis.48. Some authorities have had difficulty followingsubmission because the essential baselineinformation has not been provided – what waste iscurrently generated by the various waste streams;how is it managed; and what factors are likely toinfluence the quantities and types of waste andfacilities over the plan period. In some instancesauthorities have not heeded the guidance inPlanning Policy Statement 10: Planning forSustainable Waste Management (PPS10) 19 thatwaste core strategies should both inform and inturn be informed by any relevant municipal wastemanagement strategy. In many instances wasteplanning involves cross boundary issues. In suchcircumstances it is important to get a co-ordinatedapproach from the authorities involved.49. The next steps of predicting demand from thevarious waste sources over the plan period anddevising a strategy to meet the demand has alsoproved to be difficult. The uncertainties involvedneed to be acknowledged and dealt with by wayof reasoned assumptions based on what is known.These assumptions can then be monitored andthe plan adjusted if necessary. This plan, monitorand manage approach is often not evident. Ratherthan use this pragmatic approach some authoritiesappear unwilling to use assumptions or, wherethey do, to explain the extent of the assumptionsused, preferring to produce generalised andvague plans. While this may avoid the need tojustify the assumptions on the basis of evidencespecific to the area, it leads to bland documentsthat do not reflect the plan led approach. It alsomeans that some of the core strategies have beenso general that it has proved difficult to identify aclear strategy.50. In some instances the criteria for siteallocations that would be used to identify sites inan allocations DPD that follows on from a corestrategy have not been explicit. This is a seriousshortcoming as the intention is that the corestrategy should provide the framework that wouldenable lower level DPDs to be produced andexamined expeditiously. In the same vein therehave been examples of very weak justifications forsites that have been allocated or areas of search.In relation to the latter some authorities havesought to have very extensive areas. As with thecriteria, this approach does not provide adequateguidance for subsequent site allocation DPDs, nordoes it help any private sector organisation seekingto develop a site through the planning applicationroute. It is important to note that the EuropeanUnion Waste Framework Directive requires wasteplans to “include a geographical map specifying theexact location of waste disposal sites or facilities,or locational criteria which are sufficiently preciseto enable the permitting authority to determinewhether or not the site or facility falls within themanagement framework provided by the plan.”51. Further guidance on waste plans is inpreparation and will be placed on the CLG PlanMaking Manual shortly 20 .Proposals MapsThe proposals map does not have DPD status inits own right because anything it conveys mustbe identified in a DPD or saved development plan.Generally Inspectors have found that the approachof using inset plans within submitted DPDs hasnot created any problems.52. The proposals map is a cartographic representationof the geographic application of allpolicies with specific spatial extent set out in anyDPD or saved development plan. The proposalsmap does not have DPD status in its own rightbecause anything it conveys must be identified ina DPD or saved development plan policies.Footnotes19View PPS10:http://www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planning/planningpolicyguidance/mineralsandwaste/wastemanagement/pps10/20View the Guidance on the waste content of core strategies:http://www.pas.gov.uk/pas/core/page.do?pageId=11000412 Local Development Frameworks


53. The implication of this is that Inspectorscannot make recommendations that requirechanges that refer only to the proposals map. Anyrecommendation has to relate to the relevant policyin the DPD. Hence if the Inspector considers thata feature on the proposals map is unacceptableand should be changed (for example a settlementboundary) the only way of dealing with it is tosay that the relevant settlement boundary policyis unsound unless the boundary is changed in away specified by the Inspector.54. The submitted DPD must be accompaniedby a map to show how the existing adoptedproposals map (i.e. in most instances the adoptedlocal plan or UDP proposals map) will be changedas a consequence of the adoption of a DPDwhere changes are proposed. It should be notedthat changes will include anything that is beingremoved (for example a protective designation)and not only what is being added. There is norequirement for the submission proposals map toshow existing policy areas that are unchanged.Many authorities are showing proposed changesthrough the use of inset plans within the submittedDPD. Generally Inspectors have found that thispragmatic approach does not create any problems.The detail of changes being suggested clearlyneeds to be available at the publication stage sothat informed representations can be made.55. An alternative but more expensive option is toproduce a complete “submission version” proposalsmap. Our experience shows that this approachcreates confusion between what is carried overand what is new. It can complicate core strategyexaminations by side-tracking people from themain strategic issues. Hence this is not an approachwhich we recommend unless there are wholesalechanges proposed to a majority of designations.Whichever route is followed the existing adoptedproposals map must be revised when the DPD isadopted and this revised map then replaces theprevious proposal map. This process is repeatedas each DPD is adopted and hence there is onlyever one adopted proposals map that records thespatial incidence of all extant development planpolicies.56. Authorities are finding the advice in PPS12that proposals maps should show areas at risk offlooding hard to apply in practice. This is becauseflood risk areas can be subject to frequent changeas for example mitigation measures or reviseddrainage arrangements are put in place. Thisproblem is acknowledged by CLG and DPDs areunlikely to be found unsound on the basis that theproposals map does not show areas of floodingunless the relationship between flooding andthe location of development is a significant issuein a particular area. However the extent of anyflooding issue should be referred to in the text ofthe DPD.57. Where a suite of DPDs are programmedcouncils need to think clearly about the appropriateopportunity interested parties will have to makerepresentations on the boundaries of policydesignations. On some occasions changes havebeen made to designations on draft proposalsmaps without a clear policy reference in theDPD. Any proposed boundary changes must bereferred to in the text of the DPD thus allowingrepresentations to be made about the suggestedchange.Development Management PoliciesDevelopment management policies should beaimed at promoting the strategy that the authorityis seeking to implement and not result in numerousnegative development control policies.58. The idea that planning authorities shouldhave a limited suite of development managementpolicies has not usually been followed. Almost allauthorities are persisting with a large number of“development control” policies. These tend to benegative “thou shalt not” type policies rather thanpositive policies aimed at promoting the strategythat the authority is seeking to implement.Clearly many local planning authorities do notfeel comfortable about making decisions aboutplanning applications without an extensive rangeof development control policies. The old approachalso reinforces the reactive development controlmindset rather than the positive developmentmanagement approach suitable for a genuinelyplan-led spatial planning system.59. Despite the guidance in paragraph 4.30 ofPPS12 many policies simply repeat national orregional planning policy guidance. While this doesnot make the document unsound it does make itfar longer than it needs to be. The argument thathaving the relevant policies all in one document isconvenient for the public is often negated by theproduction of a long, unfocussed and confusingdocument in which the essential issues and thestrategies are lost in a mass of unnecessarymaterial. It follows that the examination is likelyto be more lengthy, which will have resourceimplications for the local planning authority andwill add to the overall cost of the process.Examining Development Plan Documents: Learning from Experience 13


60. In relation to climate change and sustainableconstruction policies a number of authorities arenot taking adequate account of the advice in thesupplement to PPS1 21 , particularly paragraphs 31-33. Any local requirements need to be justified onthe basis of specific local evidence and viabilityconsiderations. These requirements are frequentlynot met.The Examination and ReportLate changesExtensive public participation should ensure thatit is less likely that matters raised at publicationstage have not been the subject of previousrepresentations.61. The publication of the draft DPD should beinformed by earlier extensive public participationto ensure that what is published is what thecouncil believes is sound. This makes it less likelythat matters will be raised at this stage that havenot been the subject of previous representations.However, revised pre-submission proceduresgive local authorities the opportunity to makenecessary changes to the published version ofthe plan before it is submitted for examination 22 .There is currently limited experience of whetherthis revision has largely eliminated the problemof authorities wishing to make changes to thesubmitted plan.The evidence base should be comprehensive andcomplete on publication.62. A problem that sometimes still arises is arequest for the hearing part of the examination tobe delayed while additional evidence is gathered.This arises when authorities fail to heed the advicethat the evidence base should be comprehensiveand complete on publication. The Inspectorattempts to be as helpful as possible when theserequests arise but a delay of more than about 6months is unlikely to be acceptable as it suggeststhat the justification for the plan is so defectivethat the document should be withdrawn.Assumption of soundness63. Under the PPS12 (2004) guidance there was apresumption that the DPD as submitted was sound.This presumption led to some confusion and wasshown to be unlawful in the Blyth Valley and SurreyWaste judgements 23 . It has now been replaced inthe latest PPS12 with the assumption that the localauthority has submitted what it considers to be asound plan. This change has usefully reinforced theimportance of the frontloading process and alsoclarified the point that the examining Inspectorstarts from a strictly neutral point of view anddoes not apply any presumption in favour of thelocal planning authority.The reportThe fact check stage is intended to deal onlywith matters of fact and clarification; it is notappropriate for an authority to challenge anyrecommendations that it may not like.64. The format of DPD reports, in whichrepresentations are no longer dealt withindividually, has not created problems that we areaware of and has had the benefit of significantlyshorter reports that focus on the critical issues.A minor concern is that a few authorities havesought to use the fact check stage to challengethe basis of some of the recommendationsmade in the report. This is not appropriate asthis stage is intended to deal only with mattersof fact or clarification. Clarification of an unclearrecommendation should be sought but not thefact that an authority does not like, or may havedifficulty with, the recommendation.Conclusions65. As at August 2009 136 DPD examinationshad been completed (since 2004). Some 70% ofthe DPDs examined have been found sound. Thisshould provide reassurance to those authoritieswho have yet to submit DPDs and it is hoped thatthis document, detailing what we have learnedfrom our experience, will assist to boost theconfidence of authorities yet to submit.Footnotes21View Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change - Supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1:http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/ppsclimatechange22View the CLG Plan Making Manual section ‘Changing your plan after publication’:http://www.pas.gov.uk/pas/core/page.do?pageId=10988223View Blyth Valley Borough Council v Persimmon Homes (North East) Limited, Barratt Homes Limited & MillhouseDevelopments Limited:http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/861.htmlView Capel Parish Council v Surrey County Council:http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2009/350.html14 Local Development Frameworks

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