Or, you can find big stuff in little stuff. Not a very scholarly translation, admittedly, but multum in parvo neatly sums up the significance of punctuation in planning policy and decision making.
As a case in point, an inspector deciding an appeal against the refusal of outline permission for a motorists’ service area in Hampshire (DCS Number 200-006-419) ruled that restaurants and drive-thrus fall within the NPPF definition of leisure uses due to the choice of punctuation in Annex 2.
The inspector recorded that Annex 2 provides a definition of main town centre uses that includes: “…; leisure, entertainment facilities the more intensive sport and recreation uses (including cinemas, restaurants, drive-through restaurants, bars and pubs, night-clubs, casinos health and fitness centres, indoor bowling centres, and bingo halls);…”. In his opinion the presence of a comma rather than a semicolon between the words ‘leisure’ and ‘entertainment’ means that the list of examples that follow could be considered within the category of both leisure and entertainment rather than specifically one or the other. So, despite leisure and assembly uses being designated Class D2 in the Use Classes Order, and restaurants and hot food takeaways being designated either Class A3 or A5, he took the view that the proposed restaurant and the two drive-thru restaurant/coffee shops would fall within the definition of leisure development in terms of paragraph 26 of the Framework which concerns applications for retail, leisure and office development outside of town centres. Following on from this he dismissed the appeal, finding no proven need for the use in the open countryside.
The making of planning decisions has been described as a quasi-legal activity and the truth in this is rarely more apparent than when commas and semicolons are under discussion.
The following DCP chapter is relevant: 16.33