Stopping up roads has been an issue for a number of our clients over the past few months. In each case this has been required to allow development to take place. The 1997 Act provides a mechanism for this to be done – generally where planning permission has already been granted, and it is clear that the stopping up is necessary to allow the development to proceed.
Naturally developer clients are less interested in the legal requirements, and more interested in the timescales – how long will it take, and when can development start? The bad news is that developers are largely in the hands of the planning authority here as it is of course the Council that promotes the stopping up order (for the local road network in any event), but the good news is that the majority of orders, once promoted are not contested.
Assuming a co-operative Council, and if there are no objections to the order (or objections are withdrawn after negotiation), the developer can hope for a confirmed order within 3 -4 months following the grant of planning permission for the development. Unwelcome delay, but hopefully not a showstopper.
But where objections are made and not withdrawn, the implications are much more serious. The order must be referred to the Ministers for an inquiry to be held. For one of our clients, it has taken nearly 12 months from promotion of the order to confirmation by the Ministers, despite a fairly speedy turnaround by the reporter who was appointed to hear the case.
Despite the delay, the issues were fairly straightforward: was the stopping up necessary; would an acceptable route be available after stopping up, and was it a road? Strangely enough, in some cases this last question may be the most controversial.
Thankfully for developers, examination of the order is not an opportunity for objectors to have a further pop at the planning merits of the development, and there is caselaw to support this. As with all these things, the best strategy is early discussion with the planners. While the statutory process can’t be avoided, a good working relationship with the Council will do much to smooth the path.
On August 9, 2010