Wealden District Council’s plans to object to any planning application that resulted in additional traffic movements within a 50 mile radius of Ashdown Forest was a story that attracted a lot or reader interest last month.
Wealden is concerned that traffic pollution is damaging the forest and sees it’s plan to stifle development as a way of controlling that. And it has intimated that it will not only object to all planning applications that are being lodged but will seek judicial review of any applications that are approved by neighbouring councils in the meantime – potentially incurring huge legal costs for each of the local authorities involved.
In his report to Hastings Borough Council (HBC) this month, its leader, Peter Chowney conceded that Wealden is right and that air pollution is damaging Ashdown Forest and he says there is proof that that is the case. He questions, however, the actions being taken by Wealden District Council to make its point.
Along with leaders of ten other councils affected by Wealden’s new policy Mr Chowney has written to Bob Stanley, leader of the council, expressing in strong terms HBC’s dissatisfaction with Wealden’s actions.
Mr Chowney says: “These are mostly Tory councils, but also includes Crawley and Brighton, both Labour, and Eastbourne which is Lib Dem. The affected councils have taken a common view on this and are still going ahead with processing smaller applications, for one or two dwellings, but larger applications are on hold.
“There is a risk to that, because developers could appeal on the grounds of ‘non-determination’, which could land the councils with bills for legal costs, if the developer wins. The government has now got involved, as Wealden’s actions are preventing the development of thousands of new homes across the south east region. Technically, they probably could take planning powers away from Wealden, on non-determination grounds. But the problem doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved anytime soon,” Mr Chowney concludes.
What non-determination means:
The Local Planning Authority has a specific time in which to determine a planning application (eight weeks for minor applications, 13 weeks for major applications and 16 weeks for applications requiring Environmental Impact Assessments). If no decision has been made within this time period (except where the applicant and authority have agreed a longer period in writing), the applicant can appeal to the Secretary of State on the ground of non-determination. The procedures for this are similar to those which apply when an application has been refused. The Secretary of State appoints an Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate to consider the application.
If possible, it is often best to avoid appealing against non-determination as the process can take a long time.
Source: Planning Aid England, part of the Royal Town Planning Institute