Planning Professor at Borsetshire City University slams planning process for Mega Dairy at Home Farm
A leading planning academic at Borsetshire City University has expressed grave concerns over the planning processes used to assess the Mega Dairy proposal at Home Farm by Borsetshire Land by Brian Aldridge.
"The proposal clearly has not followed the proper legal channels opening up the way for a legal challenge to the local government ombudsman whatever the ultimate planning decision. This would result in considerable legal fees against the council at a time of unprecedented cutbacks in council spending".
The planning proposal should have gone through the following steps.
1. Borsetshire Council should have required an environmental impact assessment of the dairy proposal under schedule 2 of the EIA Directive from Europe. This is a large scale and new type of proposal and in my view would automatically trigger an EIA.
2. The Environment Agency report must have been received before any planning meeting was held to make a decision. Given that the pollution issues were key in reaching a decision council members would not, and should not, have reached a decision to support or reject it without this information. Planning Officers would have reminded the members of this fact if they were to express firm views before having this evidence in front of them. (I can only assume the delay in the report was due to the loss of staff the EA have recently suffered. Whatever, this would have delayed the planning meeting till next month)
3. The planning officer's report should have been discussed by the councillors with questions being asked of it rather than the public soapbox presentations presented. This gives the impression that committee members do not identify the core planning issues.
4. The planning committee would have voted to defer decision until all necessary information had been received. (This includes the absent Environmental Impact Assessment required from BL and (I am afraid a DVD is not an acceptable substitute) as well as the Environmental Agency report. Under no circumstances would a proposal of this magnitude be given to a planning officer to make under delegated powers at a later stage.
It is noteworthy that this proposal under the new planning system within the NPPF would still be delayed by up to a year or so by the requirements from Europe and embedded in regulations in England for an Environmental Impact Assessment. Brian Aldridge would have had to employ a team of consultants to assess in detail the impacts of the development ensuring that other alternatives had been assessed. The impact on other dairy farmers, the environment and the community would have had to have been quantified but using BL resources as they pay for the EIA process. Once the EIA was deemed satisfactory by all competent authorities then the planning application could be processed.
I am not sure that the new NPPF would have changed anything in the existing core strategy for Borsetshire.
As an Archers fan I applaud the programmes decision to tackle this controversial area of rural life. However, misrepresenting the planning process in the name of drama is not appropriate when the programme seeks to present accurate and up to date agricultural storylines. The process as shown was not one that I would recognise for a development of this scale, size and potential impact. I may go as far to suggest it does represent what might have happened if the original draft NPPF had been the final version as the whole planning debate might have spun on what constituted sustainable development.
At a time when planning is in the public domain such a portrayal does little to instil confidence when an already beleaguered planning profession is being attacked on all sides.