Planning law update

As chair of Planning Aid in Yorkshire, Ken Burley reviews the planning law event and hears about the many issues planners face.

The planning law update has long been a very popular event in the Yorkshire conference series. Nearly 180 delegates arrived at Leeds College of Music to hear the latest on legal issues affecting the planning system.

RTPI president Mike Hayes began proceedings with a presentation entitled "Standing and delivering", highlighting the need to respond to the many challenges facing planners and society in general.

David Goodman selected a number of recent legal cases to intrigue his audience, including Lough v Secretary of State, an example of where planning matters are related to the Human Rights Act. The Thomas v Cannock Chase case focused on procedural correctness, whereby failure to observe it properly opens up the prospect of legal challenge. You have been warned.

Major changes are being introduced through the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. It fell to Andrew Brotherton to inform the gathering about one of them, compulsory purchase. Among other things, latest compulsory purchase order powers are broader than before and improved compensation payments are possible.

Increasingly practitioners are faced with the possibility of either receiving or paying cost awards in connection with planning appeals. As Martin Walker pointed out though, costs may only be awarded in limited circumstances.

For third parties, the chances of a cost award are even less. In cases where cost awards are made it is possible to challenge the actual amount.

Nevertheless, it makes sense to follow Circular 8/93 and avoid an award in the first place, bearing in mind that there is no limit to the amount of costs awarded.

Tracy Ofarn looked at the implications of the act from the point of view of development control and forward planning. The government introduced the act because it felt that the earlier system was too complex, slow, uncertain in its outcomes and did not engage communities adequately. Tracy felt that some of act's goals were irreconcilable, for example, reducing delays while at the same time increasing public participation. On the other hand, some proposals like standard applications seem long overdue.

Minerals and waste present some of the most difficult and often controversial planning and environmental issues. There is a concern, Glen Sharpe pointed out, that the planning system is failing to deliver sufficient sites for waste treatment. In particular, how will the planning system deal with hazardous waste facilities that have now been reduced to 15 or so as a result of the recent hazardous waste regulations?

In the concluding open forum, questions about the resources needed to deliver the updated systems and planners' pay quickened the pulse. Mike Hayes urged local authorities and planners with ideas and ambition to move forward under the revised system. As for planners' salaries, he would personally make representations about them.

As usual then, a thought provoking legal update that is scarcely done justice by this brief note.

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