Planning guidance ‘strengthens town centres first policy’

The Government's recently released Planning Policy Statement 4, for sustainable economic growth, puts added pressure on the future of out-of-town developments, says Manchester-based HOW planning.

Although the requirement to satisfy the sequential test (is there a better alternative) for all main town centre uses remains largely unchanged its importance has been significantly elevated and the new guidance is very clear that where the local authority considers the test is not met, they should refuse planning permission.

This could lead to difficulties for office or mixed-use developments which are not within a defined centre and not in accordance with a council development plan, particularly where there are brownfield sites available.

Richard Woodford, partner at HOW Planning, said: "The onus is on the applicant to provide robust information appropriate to the nature and scale of the proposed development. For schemes not in town centres this means whether there are any sequentially preferable sites along with an assessment of the impacts of the proposed development. The way the PPS is drafted is likely to lead to different views on how it should be interpreted."

The new guidance was published following lengthy consultation carried out in 2008 and further consultation which followed a second shorter draft in response to the Killian Pretty Review which highlighted the need to streamline planning policy.

The style of the document sets out a series of 19 plan-making or decision-making policies which relate to employment generating uses, main town centre uses and other public and community uses and, in contrast to the original draft PPS4, the guidance does not cover housing.

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