This newsletter is published by the Law Society's Planning and Environmental Law Committee and sent to solicitors with SRA records indicating interests in planning and/or environmental law. For more about the Committee's activities, and to tell us how we can improve our newsletter, please contact us.
A roundup of notable recent policy developments, appointments, practice guidance and other changes.
In a recent speech to the Local Government Association, secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid announced an upcoming consultation on a standardised approach to housing need assessment. He was critical of progress on adopting up-to-date local plans, and launched the previously-announced Housing Infrastructure Fund. A series of recent articles by Savills summarise a rather sorry housing picture.
No watering down of protection - Gove
Interviewed on a recent broadcast of BBC Radio 4's 'Farming Today' programme, and ahead of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs said 'We need to maintain, and where possible enhance, environmental and animal welfare standards... I do not for a moment want to see either of them diluted or eroded.' A group of lawyers intend to keep him to his word.
NPPF clarified - again
Readers might be forgiven for thinking that paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) had appeared in court more often than Rumpole. Unlike many before it, however, a recent Court of Appeal case has considered how the presumption in favour of sustainable development applies in situations where there is an up-to-date local plan, including a five year housing land supply.
In upholding a High Court judgment quashing an inspector's decision, the court deemed that the inspector had misapplied section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 which requires determination in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
With long-delayed revisions to the NPPF now predicted for late 2017, Simon Ricketts wonders if greater clarity might be in prospect.
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- the Environment Agency has secured the largest ever fines on individuals for a case related to illegal dumping
- a decision on a new runway for Heathrow has been
delayed again, with the National Policy Statement now scheduled for next year
- the government has launched a transport investment strategy, which includes unlocking housing sites as a priority
- Cheshire East, recently the focus of a Supreme Court case, now has an approved local plan - which might help keep it out of the courts for a while
- Islington Council won an appeal over viability of affordable housing which may have wider repercussions
- a Welsh Assembly Public Accounts Committee report is strongly critical of the government's approach to coastal protection
- ClientEarth's latest challenge to government's air plans has failed
- the Committee on Climate Change's latest report argues that progress on the transition to a resilient, low carbon economy is stalling, in part due to planning and environmental practices
- Essex councils have secured an extension to their groundbreaking injunctions against unauthorised encampments
- South Cambridgeshire District Council must apply to the High Court after mistakenly granting permission for seven homes in the green belt
- four REACH registrations have been revoked by the European chemicals agency (ECHA)
- the European Commission has launched a consultation on micro-plastics and the marine environment
- from April 2018, Landfill Disposals Tax will replace Landfill Tax in Wales
- a recent BBC Radio 4 documentary asked, 'is it safe to live on a former landfill site?'
- the House of Lords Library has published 'Leaving the European Union: UK Climate Change Policy'
- The Labour Party has revealed its new shadow ministerial team, including housing and local government roles
- from August, roadside vehicle checks will include testing for emissions 'cheat devices'
- Anna Rose, currently of Milton Keynes Council will become the new head of the Planning Advisory Service
- finally, the Court of Appeal is to consider an unusual case which may interest those who tend to cut things a little too fine...
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The Committee participated in two evidence sessions for the Town and Country Planning Association's Raynsford Review of Planning. Beth Harris contributed to a session on whether England still has a plan-led system, while Jamie McKie considered the case for a national spatial plan. Written submissions are also invited from a wider audience.
Incoming committee Chair Tim Smith will lead a session on 'planning issues for conveyancers' at this year's national property law conference.
Summer is here (or has it been already?) and readers' thoughts may turn to matters less professional. However, two ways to explore the impact of green belt policy may be of interest. The Law Society Golf Club asked us to encourage interested solicitors to contact them, which we are happy to do. Secondly, for the lycra-lovers among you (and there are quite a few), a free-to-join virtual cycling club for planning and environmental law professionals now exists on the Strava app.
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The Planning and Environmental Law Committee regularly responds to official consultations on points of law and technical matters. We may not respond to all those consultations listed below but if you have input you'd like to share, please contact us.
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In each newsletter we highlight a small number of notable judgments across a range of topical legal points. This month, in addition to the East Staffordshire NPPF case reported above, a challenge to a National Policy Statement (NPS), interpretation of local plan policy, and the latest episode in a long-running saga concerning a single wind turbine on a Welsh hillside.
R (Scarisbrick) v secretary of state for communities and local government; Date: 30 June 2017; Ref:  EWCA Civ 787
This case examined the meaning of the NPS for hazardous waste, and whether the secretary of state had misapplied or misinterpreted it. It was brought by a landowner adjacent to the site of a Development Consent Order for a landfill facility in the green belt. The claimant argued that the NPS only established national need, and did not establish the need for the specific facility. Lord Justices Lindblom and Irwin dismissed the claim, asserting that the secretary of state had not failed to consider all necessary factors.
Dignity Funerals Ltd v Breckland District Council  EWHC 1492
The claimant challenged the council's permission for a new crematorium on the grounds that it had misinterpreted local plan policy and had failed to consider alternative sites. Justice Holgate dismissed the misinterpretation grounds, referring to Tesco and Hopkins Supreme Court cases which discouraged excessively mechanistic interpretation of policies. He also dismissed the argument about the consideration of alternative sites, asserting that the council had been under no legal obligation to do so in this case.
Williams, R (on the application of) v Powys County Council & Anor  EWHC 480
An application for a single wind turbine, granted in December 2013, was quashed by consent and a new application submitted. It was granted in May 2015 and challenged in the High Court in 2016. That case was dismissed but permission to appeal granted. Lord Justices Lindblom and Irwin in the Court of Appeal ruled that the planning authority had failed in its duty under section 66(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to have 'special regard' to preserving the setting of grade II* listed church nearby and directed the county council to 'lose no time in taking the decision again'.