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Local plans are threatened with revision, says David Bell, planning policy manager, North Hertfordshire DC. ...
Local plans are threatened with revision, says David Bell, planning policy manager, North Hertfordshire DC.

Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 contains a fundamentally new approach to planning which calls for the concentration of new developments on previously developed land or brownfield sites before greenfield sites.

North Hertfordshire DC is dealing with a county structure plan proposal for a

greenfield development; West of Stevenage. The plan was adopted in 1998 and the

district council put on deposit a review local plan.

In March the district received the PPG3. Councillors noted the guidance 'introduces a new approach to planning for housing which, for most authorities, will mean their development plan will require early review and alteration in respect of housing'. It said guidance 'may also be material to decisions on individual planning applications and appeals'.

The council's attention was particularly focused on making 'better use of previously developed land' and the PPG3 requirement for 'assessing the capacity of urban areas; and adopting a sequential approach to the allocation of land for housing


The council sought the opinion of a leading counsel to inform about the predominance and role of PPG3 in relation to the adopted structure plan, the review of the local plan and any potential planning applications on greenfield sites.

Questions to the QC focused upon the relationship of the West of Stevenage proposal with both the adopted structure plan and the draft local plan.

The QC's advice suggests: 'The logical course must be now to withdraw [the draft local plan] and carry out the work explicitly required by PPG3.

'The substantial question mark now raised against that allocation by PPG3 is, therefore, as much a county council problem as a district council problem.'

The QC's advice to North Hertfordshire may contain conclusions applicable to other areas and councils. Planners, consultants and developers constantly assess the importance of the different policies either to prepare plans or to decide planning applications.

In his opinion the QC suggests the PPG3 has fundamental implications. The council is considering what these implications might be. It will be examining what the consequences could be in terms of the development plan process and determining planning applications and what weight to give alternative approaches. Other councils will be considering the possible consequences too.

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