Planning & Environment

The Edinburgh City Local Plan has been quashed in part because the planning authority failed to give adequate and intelligible reasons for refusing to accept the recommendations from the local plan inquiry reporters for housing sites at Newcraighall (the Hallam Land case).

Their reasons were described as “glib and unsubstantiated assertions”. It’s a reminder of the practical difficulties faced by councillors when they have to justify a decision made contrary to their officers’ advice  (in this case officers recommended accepting the reporter’s recommendations). How much evidence is needed to substantiate their reasons?

The judge was invited to quash the entire local plan process, following the decision in South Northamptonshire District Council v Charles Church Developments. He refused, explaining that the plan is an outcome of the process, not the process itself. He quashed the parts of the plan relating to the Newcraighall sites, and indicated that it is for the planning authority to decide on the appropriate administrative steps to be taken. The press has reported that the planning authority is considering an appeal.

The Local Plan was adopted some 16 months ago, but the reporter’s recommendations relate back to the finalised local plan published in March 2007. The new development plan preparation procedures should be quicker, but it’s concerning that it took over a year for the court appeal to be decided.

Councillors will not face the same problem with local development plans, as the reporter’s recommendations from the new development plan examinations are binding (with some limited exceptions).

Neil Collar

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