Days numbered for council’s approach to planning

Published October 7th, 2014

Shropshire Council’s approach to guiding development in towns and villages could be challenged in the future for being too simplistic.

The warning comes from planning consultant Helen Howie at Berrys who believes the ‘planning by numbers’ exercise Parish Councils are encouraged to do by Shropshire Council may not fit national planning policy.

“This numbers game may no longer prove acceptable,” said Helen Howie who is based at the Shrewsbury office of Berrys.

“Evidence from other local authorities suggests that the Planning Inspectorate is clamping down on this simplistic approach to planning.”

Shropshire Council has encouraged villages to choose the number of new houses they wish to accept over the next 11 years (to 2026).  Whether this ‘housing guideline’ is for 50 or 500 houses, the local councils clearly expect it to be a ‘line in the sand’ beyond which they do not wish to go.

Planning by numbers

Planning by numbers

“There are signs that this is incompatible with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF),” Mrs Howie said.

“The NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development is a game changer, the full effects of which are still becoming apparent.

“Essentially, if a village is deemed acceptable for development, you can’t use a target number to put a ceiling on growth.  Attempts to do so are being interpreted elsewhere in England as contrary to the NPPF’s ‘presumption in favour’.”

The practice of setting a target figure for towns and villages is not new.  For example, it is used in the draft Chester West and Chester Local Plan to set a target figure for development in Chester, Ellesmere Port, Winsford and Northwich.  Putting a number on the growth of small villages is simply an extension of this well-worn method of planning.

There are initial signs from the Planning Inspectorate that this approach is now proving unacceptable.  The Inspector who is currently examining the draft Chester West and Chester Local Plan is requiring all references to target figures to be changed so that the target figure becomes a minimum figure.

The Inspector on the Cheshire West and Chester Plan has required that the Plan be changed so that all target numbers are changed from being “in the region of” a specific number to “at least” that number.

“There is all the difference in the world between ‘around 50 dwellings’ and ‘at least 50 dwellings’,” Mrs Howie said.

“If this approach by the Cheshire Planning Inspector is repeated when Shropshire’s Plan is examined in October and November, then Shropshire’s villages might be in for a shock.  There are many landowners who would like to see the numbers for their village increased or turned into a minimum figure.”

Berrys will be representing clients at the examination into Shropshire Council’s SAMDev Plan over October and November.  For further information telephone Helen Howie on 07741 313576 or email helen.howie@berrybros.


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More about Helen Howie

Senior Planning Consultant
Tel: 01743 239028
Mobile: 07741 313576

Helen is a Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute with qualifications from Aberdeen and Liverpool Universities, where she was the winner of the Abercrombie Prize.

Helen has a solid 16 years’ experience from both private and public sectors, with particular expertise in Local and Neighbourhood Plans, housing and larger scale developments. She has given talks at a number of RTPI events and for the Government’s Planning Advisory Service, and is known for her proactive and dedicated approach.