Supreme Court JudgementPerhaps like me, other planning practitioners have read the various commentaries to the recent Supreme Court ruling on the NPPF.

It seems that all sides involved are positive about the judgement. They praise the clarity of direction it gives for planning application decision takers. It seems the judgement confirms that “relevant policies” in paragraph 49, are to be restricted to housing only policies. The ruling states that in the absence of a five year housing land supply, other non housing policies are not necessarily out of date but they may carry less weight. Their effective ‘weighting’ is to be at the discretion of the ‘decision maker’.  As the barrister Trevor Ivory said, the judgement makes paragraph 49 irrelevant.

So what progress have these very expensive legal cases made?
Will local authorities now be more inclined to approve planning applications in the absence of a five year housing supply? Well seemingly not. The comments made by Philip Ridley of Suffolk Coastal District Council suggest continued application of local plan policies as the ‘priority influence’ to decisions. Some feel that the absence of a five year housing land supply opens the door to a more lenient view of countryside protection policies. Well I hate to disappoint, but the same old wrangles are no less likely by this judgement, than ever before.

It seems to me that the key to successful planning promotions is, as ever, a strong case for sustainability. It’s not that difficult to demonstrate, provided there is honesty in approach and a thorough scrutiny of constraints and opportunities. The site then speaks for itself.

Back to Basics
Perhaps for some this is far too simplistic but if experience has taught me anything, you can ‘overcook’ the credentials of a poor site to believe it is the most sumptuous planning offering. The truth is this. Fair weighting of a relevant policy can only be informed by the truth behind the facts, presented in promotion

I am conscious of the planning achievements where I have been part of a collective team who have accurately analysed site features. This has positively influenced the weighting of applied planning policies. It is an approach that will continue to influence good planning decisions, irrespective of the application of court judgement’s and the detailed analysis of words within the NPPF.