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How to change a draft local plan to include your site

If your site isn’t one of those the council is proposing for development in a new local plan, how can you change their mind? This post explains what you need to do.

Some background

When a council prepares a new Local Plan, they are required to identify specific sites for specific purposes, such as housing or employment development. These are usually referred to as ‘allocations.’

The council will work through various drafts of the plan, before submitting it to the government’s Planning Inspectorate for examination. That is the final check that the plan has been prepared properly before it comes into force.

But what if your site isn’t a proposed allocation in that submitted plan? How can you get it included?

What won’t work

First, let’s look at something that you shouldn’t do because it won’t work.

Don’t try to argue to the planning inspector that your site is better than one or more of the sites chosen by the council. She won’t be interested.

The inspector has to do just two things when examining a plan:

  1. Make sure it meets certain legal requirements (like the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ between neighbouring councils).
  2. Make sure it is ‘sound’. That means it must be prepared positively to meet needs; justified by the evidence; effective in meeting those objectives; and consistent with national policy.

The inspector’s job isn’t to try to make the plan better, or to consider whether there are more appropriate sites that could have been chosen.

There is no merit in simply claiming that your site is the best.

Those points were considered in a recent high court case between a strategic land company and Royal Tunbridge Wells Council. The judgement explicitly stated that “The examination is not a series of mini-inquiries into participants’/objectors’ proposed allocations.”

All the Inspector has to do is satisfy herself that the submitted plan has correctly identified the needs of the borough, and will actually meet them in a way that reflects national planning policy.

What might work

Despite that, there are steps you can take to try to get your site allocated at that late stage.

We know that any issues you raise must be aimed at the soundness of the plan. If the inspector doesn’t think the plan is sound, she can ask the council to suggest amendments to make it sound – and sometimes, that will mean they have to allocate more sites for development.

There are countless ways this could happen, so let’s look at just two examples.

1. The plan doesn’t look to meet housing need

If a plan doesn’t set out to build enough new homes to meet need, it hasn’t been positively prepared and is therefore unsound.

Perhaps the number of new homes needed has been calculated incorrectly and the actual housing need is higher than the submitted plan claims. That could be because affordable housing need or economic growth haven’t been properly reflected.

Sometimes councils calculate housing need correctly but then prepare a plan to deliver some other, lower number of homes.

In either case, if the inspector is satisfied that the plan should aim to deliver more new homes, more sites will need to be allocated to enable those homes to actually be built.

2. Some of the allocated sites aren’t deliverable

For a plan to be effective, the sites allocated for development must be deliverable. That means there has to be a reasonable prospect that development will actually take place during the plan period.

It might be possible to demonstrate that some of the sites chosen by the council won’t actually deliver. Perhaps the highways authority have said there are constraints on development which can’t be overcome, but the council have ignored. Or maybe one of the sites is heavily contaminated and there is no prospect it can be viably delivered. In other cases, the site might be so big that not all the homes will actually be built during the time period the plan covers.

If the Inspector agrees that a site isn’t capable of being delivered during the plan period, an alternative one will need to be allocated to make sure need is met.

Don’t start from here

From that brief overview, you can probably appreciate that once a plan is submitted, it can be very difficult to get major changes made to it. While there are ways in can be done, a much better route is to make sure your site is a proposed allocation in the first place.

We’ve explained in previous posts how the council chooses which sites to allocate, and how you can maximise the chances of your site being chosen. You should discuss your site with the council as early as possible, even before they properly start work on the new local plan. That provides more time to help the council understand the benefits of your site and for you to come up with a development proposal that helps meet their objectives as well as your own.

The Strategic Land Group specialises in promoting sites through all stages of the local plan process. We work to secure development allocations and, eventually, planning permissions on behalf of land owners at our cost and risk. Our return is a share in the value of the site once it is sold, so if we don’t succeed it doesn’t cost you anything.

If you know of a site that might be suitable for development and that could benefit from our tailor-made approach get in touch today. We’ll carry out a free, no obligation appraisal of the site’s chances and let you know the best strategy for securing permission.

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