Planning policy short list!

To be sure your letter of objection is effective:

“Planning applications must be considered and decided on the local and national planning law, as it is now – not how you might wish it should be. Remember, a strong opinion does not make it a fact! It is the soundness of the points, particularly regarding ‘material planning considerations’, that are raised, rather than the number of comments, which are important in the planning Case Officer’s assessment of the application and the final decision.”  ‘Writting to the Planners’ 

Unless you raise ‘material planning points’ with the planners , linked to local or national plans, you risk your letter being disregarded in the planning balance, or simply taken as ‘comment’.  

Here are some of the important planning policies that are pertinent to the planning application for the solar power station at North Dairy Farm.

Where possible, your objections should be linked to these policies.

Dorset Local Plan:

1. 7 Dev. within Settlement Boundaries

Policy 1 – Sustainable Development

Policy 2 – C Spatial Strategy

Policy 3 – Climate Change

Policy 4 – The Natural Env.

Policy 5 – The Historic Env.

Policy 22 – Renewable Energy

Policy 24 – Design

Policy 25 – Amenity

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

As far as the application is concerned, the following sections of the NPPF are relevant:

1.    Introduction

2.   Achieving sustainable development

3.   Plan-making

4.   Decision-making

11. Making effective use of land

12. Achieving well designed places.

14. Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change

15. Conserving and enhancing the natural environment. Para. 170.

16. Conserving and enhancing the historic environment. Paras. 193-197.

The flooding and runoff issues involve(among others):

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Guidance sets out the “Circumstances when Policies indicate that Development should be Restricted”.

North Dorset Policy 1. 3.32 also notes that development should be restricted in “locations at risk of flooding”.

Policy 4.23 indicates the Council will seek to reduce the impact of development (such as flooding). It will include measures to reduce the impact of surface water flooding.

Policy 4.27 notes: “Current flood risk exists in association with rivers, groundwater and surface water. However, climate change is likely to bring about wetter winters and more extreme weather events including increased frequency of heavy rain associated with storms. This increase in rainfall is likely to result in more flooding events from both fluvial and groundwater sources. In addition, the increased intensity of rainfall events is likely to increase the amount of surface water and result in localised flooding during and immediately after rainfall events. The likelihood and severity of flooding events can be increased because of developments incorporating features such as increased hard surfacing 

Policy 4.27 notes: “These features (hard surfaces) should be avoided and wherever possible removed through development.”. It is proposed by the applicant to increase the hard surfacing on the site by installing approximately 71 acres of impervious PV panels.

Policy 4.30 says “Flood Risk Assessments must demonstrate that development itself is not at risk from flooding or increase flood risk elsewhere and that “Flood risk mitigation and flood resistance and resilience measures may be required as part of development proposals.” The Applicants FRA is site specific and it does not contain an assessment of the food risk “elsewhere”. 

Policy 4.31 notes that flooding from surface water can occur because of heavy rainfall, with the instances of such events increasing because of climate change, which can cause soil erosion. Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems look to avoid, reduce, delay and manage surface water run-off.

Climate Change Policy 3 states that development should seek to minimise the impacts of climate change overall through the avoidance of areas at risk of flooding from all sources and the incorporation of measures to reduce flood risk overall.

Drainage and Flood Prevention Measures

Policy 7.55.  It is made clear in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that development should be directed away from areas at highest risk of flooding.

Policy 3 – Climate Change, also establishes that new development in North Dorset should not be at risk from flooding. If development is necessary then it should be made safe without increasing flood risk elsewhere.


Assessing Adverse Impacts against Benefits

3.27 Where the presumption is applied in the absence of relevant development plan policies, or where relevant development plan policies are out of date, the NPPF may require a decision-taker to consider whether any adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF. Policy 1 has been written having regard to this.

3.28 For the purposes of this policy, the term ‘significant’ means ‘not insignificant’ (e.g., for adverse impacts, the focus will be on those matters which either individually or collectively would cause material harm sufficient to justify the development not going ahead).

3.29 Reference to ‘demonstrate’ or ‘demonstrably’ means that an evidential approach should be adopted in relation to decision-making to enable an assessment as to both the degree and likelihood of impacts (for example the risk of flooding) or scope for actual benefits being delivered.

3.30 The Council will also have regard to any conditions or planning obligations that could help overcome any adverse impacts or secure identified benefits.

The commentary on the meaning of ‘significant’ reflects the views expressed in oral evidence by John Rhodes, one of the witnesses at the Communities and Local Government Committee on 10 October 2011, which was an initial evidence session in their inquiry into the draft NPPF.

Circumstances when Policies indicate that Development should be Restricted

3.31 Where the presumption is applied in the absence of relevant development plan policies, or where relevant development plan policies are out of date, the NPPF gives examples of some of the specific national policies that indicate that development should be restricted.

These are equally applicable for the purposes of Policy 1. 3.32 In North Dorset, examples include national policies relating to: sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives; sites designated as sites of special scientific interest; local green spaces; Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding.


Planning and flood risk

155. Inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk (whether existing or future). Where development is necessary in such areas, the development should be made safe for its lifetime without increasing flood risk elsewhere.

157. All plans should apply a sequential, risk-based approach to the location of development – taking into account the current and future impacts of climate change – so as to avoid, where possible, flood risk to people and property. They should do this, and manage any residual risk, by:

(a) applying the sequential test and then, if necessary, the exception test as set out below;

(b) safeguarding land from development that is required, or likely to be required, for current or future flood management;

(c) using opportunities provided by new development to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding (where appropriate through the use of natural flood management techniques); and

(d) where climate change is expected to increase flood risk so that some existing development may not be sustainable in the long-term, seeking opportunities to relocate development, including housing, to more sustainable locations.

158. The aim of the sequential test is to steer new development to areas with the lowest risk of flooding. Development should not be allocated or permitted if there are reasonably available sites appropriate for the proposed development in areas with a lower risk of flooding. The strategic flood risk assessment will provide the basis for applying this test. The sequential approach should be used in areas known to be at risk now or in the future from any form of flooding.

159. If it is not possible for development to be located in zones with a lower risk of flooding (taking into account wider sustainable development objectives), the exception test may have to be applied. The need for the exception test will depend on the potential vulnerability of the site and of the development proposed, in line with the Flood Risk Vulnerability Classification set out in national planning guidance.

160. The application of the exception test should be informed by a strategic or site-specific flood risk assessment, depending on whether it is being applied during plan production or at the application stage. For the exception test to be passed it should be demonstrated that:

(a) the development would provide wider sustainability benefits to the community that outweigh the flood risk; and

(b) the development will be safe for its lifetime taking account of the vulnerability of its users, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and, where possible, will reduce flood risk overall.

161. Both elements of the exception test should be satisfied for development to be allocated or permitted.

162. Where planning applications come forward on sites allocated in the development plan through the sequential test, applicants need not apply the sequential test again. However, the exception test may need to be reapplied if relevant aspects of the proposal had not been considered when the test was applied at the plan-making stage, or if more recent information about existing or potential flood risk should be taken into account.

163. When determining any planning applications, local planning authorities should ensure that flood risk is not increased elsewhere. Where appropriate, applications should be supported by a site-specific flood-risk
assessment. Development should only be allowed in areas at risk of flooding where, in the light of this assessment (and the sequential and exception tests, as applicable) it can be demonstrated that:

(a) within the site, the most vulnerable development is located in areas of lowest flood risk, unless there are overriding reasons to prefer a different location;

(b) the development is appropriately flood resistant and resilient;

(c) it incorporates sustainable drainage systems, unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate;

(d) any residual risk can be safely managed; and

(e) safe access and escape routes are included where appropriate, as part of an agreed emergency plan.

164. Applications for some minor development and changes of use should not be subject to the sequential or exception tests but should still meet the requirements for site-specific flood risk assessments set out in footnote 50.

165. Major developments should incorporate sustainable drainage systems unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate. The systems used should:

(a) take account of advice from the lead local flood authority;

(b) have appropriate proposed minimum operational standards;

(c) have maintenance arrangements in place to ensure an acceptable standard of operation for the lifetime of the development; and

(d) where possible, provide multifunctional benefits.

© 2022

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