On a road to nowhere

Lest readers conclude that the DCP Blog’s new year resolution to be cheerfully optimistic about the future of town planning in a difficult political context didn’t last five minutes, we ought to make clear that this Blog is about an actual road to nowhere. In a recent appeal case the creation of an access road to a potential housing site in Bedfordshire was granted planning permission despite the council’s objection on the grounds of prematurity (DCS Number 400-020-519).

An inspector observed that the site of the proposed road ran between two drainage attenuation ponds connected with a large scale housing development which was currently under construction. It appeared to be the council’s concern, he recorded, that granting planning permission for the road could prejudice the allocation of any land in an as yet unadopted plan and thus undermine the plan-led system. He considered that there was some logic to this assumption albeit he could not see how a road being there would necessarily mean a site would be allocated or not, if it were promoted. He noted that the Framework is explicit on prematurity and sets out that arguments that development would be premature are unlikely to justify the refusal of planning permission. In addition, Paragraph 50 reiterates that the refusal of planning permission on grounds of prematurity will seldom be justified where a draft plan has yet to be submitted for examination.

The inspector acknowledged that it would make little logical sense to grant planning permission for a road that, essentially, went nowhere, acknowledging that its design and appearance would lead to the natural assumption that it would be for a specific purpose which was as yet unresolved. However, there were no planning reasons to refuse it, he found. He recognised that there might never ultimately be a need for the road, reasoning that this would undoubtedly factor in the developer’s decision over whether or not the road was constructed. He was therefore also unconvinced that any perceived lack of need for the road would be sufficient for him to dismiss the appeal.

Sections 7.1316 and 7.1358 of DCP Online discuss the subject of prematurity.