This isn’t intended as a comprehensive guide to the UK planning process and planning law. The intention is to briefly explain some of the processes and policies and some of the terms used.
In 2012, the coalition government introduced a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The objective of the NPPF was to replace thousands of pages of disparate planning policy with one clearly written document (currently 76 pages). The aim was to replace decision making by remote bodies and enable people and communities to become involved with local planning issues.
The NPPF places a requirement on local ‘planning authorities’ to produce a Local Plan. Local Plans set out a vision and a framework for the future development of an area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for safeguarding the environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design. They are also a critical tool in guiding decisions about individual development proposals, as Local Plans (together with any neighbourhood plans that have been made) are the starting-point for considering whether applications can be approved.
Housing needs are assessed by consultants employed by the council and the Local Plan must address these needs, with sustainable developments. A Local Plan will include details of areas earmarked for development. Once an area is included within an approved Local Plan, subject to meeting other relevant planning requirements, a planning application will be presumed to be acceptable. This is why we have been working so hard to prevent the inclusion of Symondshyde within Welwyn Hatfield’s Local Plan.
The Local Plan was approved by the ten members of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council’s (WHBC) Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel (now the Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel, CPPP). On 13th June 2016, they voted (6 to 4, along party lines) to include a proposed satellite village at Symondshyde in the draft Local Plan. The draft Local Plan was then put out for public consultation from 30th August 2016. It should also be noted that WHBC should consult with neighbouring authorities. The Symondshyde site is very close to St Albans District Council’s (SADC) border. SADC were not been consulted.
During the consultation in 2016, we raised awareness of the Symondshyde proposal and over 400 local residents objected to the inclusion of the site (far more than another other proposal). However, WHBC did not remove Symondshyde and the draft Local Plan was then submitted for independent review.
The submitted Local Plan is currently being examined by an independent Inspector on behalf of the Secretary of State at a series of public hearings. The hearing were initially scheduled to last around six months, but have now taken over three years and are still continuing. We submitted responses throughout this process and have been represented at various hearings by a specialist planning consultant.
At the end the of the Examination, the Inspector will make recommendations on whether the Plan is ‘sound’ and should be adopted by the Council, or whether any significant changes should be made. In the latter case, further public consultation on the proposed changes and a re-examination would be required.