Sevenoaks Local Plan: summary of Inspector’s report

Here’s a summary of the report

The Inspector has finally sent a report to Sevenoaks District Council stating that she’s recommending non-adoption of the submitted Local Plan 2015-35, citing the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 Section 20(7A) on the grounds of non compliance with the Duty to Cooperate with neighbouring authorities.

As a justification for suspending the Examination Hearings 2 weeks into the process, she claims that having heard representations during the Duty to Cooperate session (Paras 26-28) and looked at all the written evidence on the DtC (Paras 19-23) she had no option but to suspend the Hearings and write to SDC.

She doesn’t discuss whether the Local Plan would have been Legally Sound, briefly mentioning instead that she had concerns.

The Inspector states once again that once it became clear after the Regulation 18 consultation that Sevenoaks District could have an unmet need, the Council should have contacted Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells to see if they could help (Paras 37-38). In the current report she details minutes of the meetings with them as evidence that SDC did not request any help until 7 weeks before the Local Plan was submitted for Examination (Paras 19-23).

She concedes that the extent of the Green Belt is a significant constraint on all three planning authorities and that there was no indication that the other two would have helped (Para 39) but claims, disingenuously in our view, that ‘proper engagement at the right time would have enabled all three authorities and others in the wider area to properly grapple with the issues arising (our underlining) from unmet housing need.’
She is critical of the lateness of the reviews commissioned by SDC and carried out by the Intelligent Plans and Examination consultancy and the Planning Advisory Service itself, saying that these were too late to offer any remedy.

KWG comment: The Inspector does not specify what she intends to mean by ‘properly grappling with the issues arising’. One could speculate that it meant SDC’s abandonment of its evidence-led and NPPF-compliant approach to making judgements about Exceptional Circumstances and Green Belt policy and caving in to Government pressure for more house building.

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