Ryedale is selling Planning Permissions for Planning Gain : 10th November 2010

Gary Housden’s letter in your issue of 27th October and Councillor Cottam’s attack on me in Committee for accusing the Council of selling planning permission for planning gain require an answer.


Gary says the Council is not able to refuse planning permission on grounds of prematurity. I have always found this argument difficult to swallow, because if correct, it leads to a free for all.


However, this is not the point I have been making.


The current local plan sets “development limits”, beyond which house building and certain other types of development are generally not to be allowed, and also “commercial limits” beyond which new retail developments are generally not to be allowed.


These are not just lines on plans devised by bureaucrats to frustrate developers and land-owners: they provide certainty, security and stability for the local community, including the business community. If, for example, a businessman wants to lease a shop in Malton, he will want to have the confidence that there are secure commercial limits which will help make his venture worthwhile. If existing businesses have no confidence in the town’s commercial limits and are afraid of competition from new developments outside them, they will want to move or close, and if there is a surfeit of say, supermarkets, outside the commercial limits, the town centre will die.


It has been said (not in Mr. Housden’s letter) that the existing development and commercial limits are obsolete, because the current plan is out of date. I cannot accept this, because the government has specifically stated that “development” and “commercial limits” are saved until a new plan is in place. This guidance was confirmed by Steve Quartermain, the Chief Planning Officer of the Communities and Local Government Department in a letter dated 6th July 2010.


Most applications for development outside planning limits used to be classed as “departures” and had to be referred to the Leeds Government Office before any consent could be issued. It was then possible for local residents to canvass this office and ask for the matter to be determined at a public enquiry. However, in March last year these rules were substantially relaxed, and this enabled Ryedale to grant permission for  Lidl in Norton and for 186 house at the Nurseries site at Norton without having to refer any of these applications to the Leeds office. Both of these sites are outside existing development or commercial limits.


Wentworth Street Car Park is also outside Malton’s commercial limits, but this has not stopped the Council proceeding towards sale, with the aim of dealing with planning in January next year – before the public enquiry into the LDF.


The more the applications allowed outside planning limits, the more the limits themselves become undermined and the more difficult it becomes to defend them, because of the precedents which are set.


In these circumstances, one would have expected the Council to produce a set of rules or criteria which might be used to determine whether or not planning permission should be granted outside planning limits, so that the public can be consulted on these. However, this has not been done. So nobody knows what rules apply and if we are not careful, there will be a “free for all”. The rule book has in effect been torn up and thrown away.


However, one matter does feature prominently during consideration of applications of this kind, and that is the amount of money which can be obtained to finance capital projects such as the Brambling Fields Junction works.


In these circumstances, where planning seems to have become finance-led, it would seem perfectly fair to suggest that planning consent is being bought and sold for planning gain.


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