Fringe Box



Letter: The Planning Hierarchy

Published on: 22 May, 2023
Updated on: 22 May, 2023

By Julian Lyon

R4GV candidate for Stoke in the recent GBC election

In a recent comment on the article: North Street Scheme to Go to Appeal – Developer Commits to Compliance with Post-Grenfell Rules there was mention of a Supplementary Planning Document or SPD. I thought it might be helpful to explain in broad terms the Planning hierarchy.

1.  Town & Country Planning Acts (as Acts of Parliament these are ‘the law’) – areas that come within this legal structure are national and international designations (Special Protection Areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Green Belt, Listed Buildings, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, etc)

2.  National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (these are planning regulations about how planning should be done and, in default of compliant, evidence-based local policies, these are the planning policies that apply as NPPF policies with no particular local context).

3. Up to Date Adopted Local Plans, based on relevant, accurate, up-to-date evidence, reviewed AT LEAST every five years (the evidence base should be updated constantly) (this is next in the hierarchy because it can only be adopted after a statutory consultation process of several stages and after examination in public by a Planning Inspector). These are called DPDs (Development Plan Documents) and typically include Strategic Site Allocations and Development Management Policies.

4. Neighbourhood Plans (these are locally consulted – within the neighbourhood – and examined in public. They MUST be Local Plan compliant, and the Local Plan takes precedence, they should deliver at least as much development as the Local Plan would but with much more localised policies to deliver on the Neighbourhood Plan’s objectives.

5. Supplementary Planning Documents SPDs) are just that, they cannot overwrite or rewrite policies in the Local Plan. The Local Plan takes priority where there is a conflict. These SPDs are primarily topic-based local guidance for participants in the planning process. Local Conservation Areas are by and large created by SPD if not specifically designated in the Local Plan DPDs.

There is a similar hierarchical application of the ‘planning weight’ that should be applied to compliance or deviation from the respective plans – great weight is applied to the higher-order policy/legal frameworks, and lesser weight applies to the SPDs.

The evidence base on which the DPDs are based must be up to date and itself carries weight in planning decisions.

From this, we can deduce that where the quantum of a DPD site allocation implies a greater height than the heights and views SPD would permit, it would be likely that a larger, taller building would probably be allowed even if the lesser weighted SPD suggested there would be substantial harm, because it must be assumed that greater harm would be caused by not delivering the amount of develop allocated in the Local Plan.

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