We provide planning advice across a wide range of development types, over a considerable geographic area, for a range of clients in the public and private sectors. This includes residential and commercial developers, retailers, private landowners, local authorities, charities and smaller private clients.
Being located in Wealden District, we have had a number of years’ first-hand experience of the manner in which the Local Authority has interpreted the Habitat Regulations. The significant, and increasing, restriction on development imposed by the Council during the last two to three years in particular extends to the whole of the Local Authority area. Its proposed draft local plan, which is going to committee in July 2018 and which will perhaps be published for consultation during in September and October, represents the first opportunity to gauge the council’s reaction to an increasing body of evidence that is beginning to isolate the council from the policy and practice of all of its neighbours. Current signs are that the council still refuses to accept the evidence, and that could have a significant effect on the housing supply proposed in the Plan. We will be monitoring the situation and advising our clients accordingly.
There is naturally widespread concern amongst the development industry at the position, and many of our smaller clients’ simply do not understand the Council’s position at all, particularly as its ‘nitrogen credit’ regime operated by the council in a bizarre regime that has no scientific or other justification often prevents sustainable development, even in the largest settlements, while still allowing proposals for rural housing that would have been unthinkable, even in the recent past, to gain permission.
We spend considerable amounts of time with clients’ proposals to achieve the best possible outcome in such difficult and inconsistent circumstances.
Our present portfolio of work includes consultancy advice on several residential schemes of varying sizes and in a wide range of locations. Our role in most cases is as lead consultant, reporting directly to the client, formulating and implementing a tactical approach and managing a larger development team of experts. Current instructions range from one or two units up to proposals for around 200. There are often quite stringent requirements from local authorities for background work, and even with smaller scale developments attention to detail and ensuring all the relevant information is provided can be a challenge. We are familiar with Environmental Impact Analysis in the larger cases.
We have been advising a consortium of landowners for a number of years regarding large scale proposals for a new sustainable settlement in north Essex, as part of the North Essex Garden Communities project where the local authorities are seeking to identify an agreed strategic approach to the allocation and distribution of large scale housing led mixed use development. This will include employment opportunities and infrastructure provision, in the form of Garden Communities. Areas of search for three new garden communities were contained with the Draft Local Plan consultations of all three Local Planning Authorities in 2016, and a further period of consultation is being undertaken in the summer of 2017. Specific sites and boundaries have not yet been determined but will be refined through the Local Plan decision-making process.
We also have a significant range of other work in promoting longer term development proposals through the development plan process. The planning system is constantly evolving, and is the subject of a considerably greater level of judicial review than at any time before. High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judgments can play a significant part in the nature of tactical advice we give to clients, and issues such a five-year housing land supply and the relevant of paragraph 14 of the NPPF are a constant source concern.
There is also a continuing portfolio of work in site development appraisals for a range of development including residential and commercial, and some of this early assessment leads to longer term promotion of appropriate opportunities.
The recent substantial changes to the permitted development rules have also led to the opening up of opportunities that did not previously exist, and we have been busy looking at existing clients' portfolios to see whether the changes can be used to advantage, as well as advising new clients in the same way. There is relevance in the use of permitted development rights in establishing ‘fall back’ positions, where it is sometimes possible, through a mix of PD and application proposals, to achieve development that it might otherwise not be possible to gain permission for.
We presently also have a heavy workload of planning appeal work, often derived from cases in which we have not been involved at application stage. This includes written representations, informal Hearings and Public Inquiries. We are able to directly instruct counsel and have good contact with the major planning Chambers.
We also have a range of work on a more diverse range of development types including applications for Lawful Development Certificates, and in a range of enforcement matters. LDCs can often be of significant importance to a client’s interests, both in terms of securing a ‘fall back’ position and in providing a tactical basis from which to launch other proposals.