At the Neighbourhood Plan steering group meeting on 4 June, James Freeman (Swale Borough Council’s Head of Planning) – who had been invited to the meeting to explain the implications of the National Planning Policy Framework – confirmed what many others have been saying for the past year: the requirement for the Plan to be “deliverable” does not mean that current landowners must be willing to implement its proposals, nor that each individual site must be assessed for viability/deliverability.
This mistaken interpretation of deliverability has been used to justify disregarding feedback from public consultations and refusing to consider alternative proposals if they do not coincide with landowners’ wishes.
Mr Freeman confirmed that, under the terms of the NPPF and the associated Planning Practice Guidelines:
1. Deliverability will be assessed for the plan as a whole, not for individual sites. The viability of a particular proposal on a particular site can be assessed only on the basis of a specific planning application; it is not part of the plan-making process. (Mr Freeman was asked about this several times, and repeatedly emphasised that the Plan will be examined for overall deliverability/)
2. Deliverability is not about whether something can be guaranteed to happen: no plan can do that. Nor is it about whether it could be implemented immediately. It’s about whether it could be possible during the lifetime of the plan.
3. The test is whether a (hypothetical) reasonable landowner would be able to make a reasonable return from the proposed use of a site, based on the market value of the site in its current use class and the typical commercial return that could be expected in current market conditions.
Mr Freeman also confirmed that the Plan will be examined for conformity with the saved Local Plan policy AAP2.
Regard should also be given to the equivalent policy (NP1) in the draft Local Plan, but this is something of a circular argument, since NP1 makes no specific recommendations – it is, in effect, a gap into which it is intended that the Neighbourhood Plan will be inserted. It says, broadly: “Priority will be given to the regeneration of Faversham Creek by retaining maritime activities (including the retention and improvement of wharfs and moorings for large craft repair) with complementary redevelopment opportunities for workshops/business uses, residential, small scale retail and restaurant uses.”
Should anyone wish to examine the NPPF and Planning Practice Guidelines for themselves, they can be found here http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/