The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004), as amended by the Localism Act (2011), states that the purpose of independent examinations is to ensure that Development Plan Documents (DPD’s), whether core strategies or not, meet legal and procedural requirements, including the duty to co-operate with neighbouring Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) and the test of soundness.
This test of soundness comprises four parts, as set out in the overarching National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published this year. First the plan must be positively prepared, “based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring LPA’s where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.”
Second it might be justified, founded on a robust and credible evidence base. The plan “should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against reasonable alternative based on proportionate evidence.”
Third it should be effective, defined or “deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities.” Flexibility is vital, together with evidence of sound infrastructure planning.
Finally, the plan should be consistent with national policy: any policies or proposals inconsistent with national policy must be identified. It “should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies of the NPPF.”
Essentially the framework makes clear what DPD’s will not be found sound at examination unless they are fully informed by the presumption in favour of sustainable development. “Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations. Development means growth.” So said the former Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, in his foreword to the Framework.