Statutory policy or loose guideline? Make up your mind!

Author: Cyril Richert

On Wednesday 10th April, to the question: “If the adopted Local and National Planning Policies are only treated as loose guidelines which can be ignored at will, then Wandsworth Council should state that such is the case” the leader of Wandsworth Council, Conservative Cllr Ravi Govindia, answered:

Yes, the keyword is ‘guidelines’“.

Indeed, in the view of the conservative leader, planning policies might be only those loose guidelines that can be ignored at will when the Council needs to secure payment to fund their budget and building targets (remember that the Council get Community Infrastructure Levy (or former section 106) from the development granted).

In Wandsworth planning department however, officers appear to consider that policies are statutory documents as they write (for example in the conclusion of planning application decision 2014/0492):

“We have made available detailed advice in the form of our statutory policies in the Local Plan consisting of the Core Strategy, Development Management Policies Document, Supplementary planning documents and Conservation Appraisals and where appropriate the Site Specific Allocations Document [… This is] clearly contrary to our statutory policies and negotiation could not overcome the reasons for refusal”.

According to Meridian Webster (an Encyclopaedia Britannica company), the definition of the word statutory says:

stat·u·to·ry. adjective \ˈsta-chə-ˌtȯr-ē\. : of or relating to formal laws or statutes. : controlled or determined by a law or rule

Indeed local policies say clearly (Local Plan – DMPD p13): “Planning permission will be granted for developments which comply with the following criteria…

Therefore are they loose guidelines or policies relating to formal laws and rules? Can we ask the Council to make up their mind and tell us clearly and officially?

Because in case they are only loose guidelines that can be ignored, what is the point of spending so much time (and money) in planning frameworks and local and national rules? Let’s officially declare the borough an open land available for architects to create their own “signature” buildings disregarding of the heritage, the environment and the local communities. I can see millions to save in case planning rules are unnecessary, while preserving essential effective public services.

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