Green Belt Reviews – Delay until After the Election – But the Result will be the Same

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Green Belts can be seen as a ‘constraint’ when deciding whether to meet OAN (Objectively assessed Needs) in full.

I said at the time despite denials this was a subtle change in policy designed to send the signal to LPAs  (Local Planning Authority) to delay decisions on Green Belt reviews until after the next election.  People poo pooed it at the time but no-one is saying this isn’t stealth change in policy now. However an LPA still has to demonstrate through the DTP that if they aren’t meeting OAN in full that they have asked other LPAs to meet it, have worked positively and proactively with them, and assessed whether the meeting of the need in a displaced location is the best SEA location.  If they can’t they will still be found unsound as plans as a whole still need to meet OAN in full.
That policy has not changed. In other words Pickles is taking advantage of the delays inherent in the DTC ( duty to co-operate) system to punt decisions past the general election with the same inevitable result. It seems to be having an effect with Guildford, York and Mole Valley all stalling.
Four things that haven’t changed:
1) The Gallagher case requirement to split the decision on what the OAN is and whether it should be met
2) The requirement for plans to be evidenced to be sound – so the ‘Boles doctrine’ of LPAs having to decide themselves not Inspectors to carry out Green Belt reviews remains, but no LPA in the country as far as I can see is still holding out to not do one apart from in London (different system- London Plan does not have to be sound) and if they did there would be insufficient evidence to support a sound plan and of course failure to meet the SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) requirement to consider realistic alternatives
3) The requirement to meet the exceptional circumstances test (not the VSC test) on plan reviews, and housing need is material to this it is not to VSC (Very Special Circumstances).
4) the requirement to meet displaced OAN through the DTC. This of course is being used by Pickles, together with the Lyons Review to claim that Labour now is threatening the Green Belt.
Garden City
The case of course is that planning approvals in the Green Belt have doubled since the NPPF and (Pickles measures them by applications not number of units tut tut) whilst Labour is planning Garden Cities (To take displaced need from the Green Belt) which in the long run would lead to far less Green Belt loss.  The situation remains, Pickles’ Policy is to meet OAN without a National New Town Policy, and as long predicted in this blog this has and will require major chunks of Green Belt deletions.  Pickles’ Legacy. Note:  Labours ‘right to grow’ in the Lyons review is implemented – as recommended on this blog – as a natural extension of the DTC and SEA best option.  LPAs would only have a right to grow if the urban extension was the best strategic option – sensible.  The only difference would be to have the SoS have back-up powers to put in place joint plan making structures where LPAs fight like rats in the sack – as at Oxford and Luton – entirely sensible and inevitable whatever party wins the election. So actually there is hardly a paper’s width between the Parties on the issues – apart from Pickles’ naive view that one day everyone will get together and agree under the DTC, and his opposition to the one policy that will save the Green Belt – Garden Cities.
Pickles as ever is the handmaiden of needless sprawl.