Summary on the Effect of the National Planning Policy Framework Issued on the 27th March 2012 for Sport Clubs
Recreational Sport can, on first impressions of the redrafted National Planning Policy Framework, breath a sigh of relief that the extensive lobbying of Government has produced a retrenchment, with Planning Policy broadly to follow the existing Planning Policy Guidance 19.
Although the presumption in favour of Sustainable Development still exists, we have a far clearer definition of what is Sustainable Development and the core roles of economic, social and environmental are now stated to be “mutually dependent”. Paragraph 14 of the Framework retains the principle from the first draft that where a Local Planning Authority has no Local Plan or the Local Plan is considered to be out of date on a particular Planning Issue or the Local Plan is silent or indeterminate on a particular Planning Issue, the Issue must be decided in accordance with the NPPF unless to do so would “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh the benefits. The key point however is that the revised draft of the NPPF gives a greater recognition on Sport Facilities. I have therefore set out in some detail where I consider this recognition lies.
Paragraph 73 acknowledges that “ access to high quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and safety of communities” Local Authorities should carry out Assessments on Sporting Facilities in terms of Needs, Quality and Quantity, and determine what sporting facilities are needed.
I have in explaining paragraph 74 below ( the most important in the NPPF for Sport) referred to Open Space, Recreational Buildings and Land and Playing Fields as “the Sporting Facility. I have shown the existing PPG19 in italics below each bullet point in Paragraph 74. Paragraph 74 says
The Sporting Facility should not be built upon unless
- An assessment has been undertaken to show that the Facility is “surplus to requirements” (this replicates Paragraph 10 of PPG19)
- The loss of the Facility due to the proposed development would be replaced by an equivalent or better facility in terms of quantity, quality and location
(this is a précis of paragraph 13 of PPG19, but does not in my judgment destroy the existing status quo)
- The development is for alternative sport and recreational facility where there is a greater demand.
This is new, but I believe seeks to keep sporting facilities in being but allow for an alternative sport where it can be shown from a Local Authority’s Assessment at paragraph 73 that there is no longer a demand for a certain sport(s) but there is for other sports
I have not to date seen a re-jig of paragraph 129 in the first draft of the NPPF which would have allowed for development of sporting facilities where the need for and benefits of development clearly outweigh the loss.
Paragraph 28 re-affirms the importance of retention of sport venues in rural areas
Conclusion – the NPPF is but the outline for Local Planning Authorities to follow in terms of both preparing their amended Local Plan and Neighbourhoods within a Local Authority who wish to prepare their own neighbourhood plan. The devil will be in the detail of implementing these Plans, which have been given the collective name of “Development Plans” and making decisions based on the Development Plans. The NPPF retains the enshrined Statutory Principle that decisions in Planning are ‘Plan Led’. This means that decisions must be made in accordance with the Development Plans or where such a plan is silent, obsolete or out of date under the National Planning Policy Framework. Remembering this, All Sports Clubs should now make it their business to actively participate in their community, firstly with Local Authorities as the latter prepare new Local Plans. Paragraph 69 of the NPPF states that Local Authorities should “ aim to involve all sections of the community in the development of Local Plans and in planning decisions” and secondly at a more local level within the community and prepare Neighbourhood Plans. I have previously advised on the Localism Act 2011 and would encourage all Sports Clubs to work with their local communities to an even greater degree. Neighbourhood Plans may if used properly in time, cascade power downwards to allow (a) a shared vision of the neighbourhood (b) set Planning Policies for the development and use of land and(c) Give planning permission (by-passing the Local Authority) through Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) and Community Right to Build Orders (CRBOs).
For Cricket Clubs who rent their grounds, the grounds having a communal use, should be thinking of using the considerable powers that will exist under sections 87 to 99 of the Localism Act and apply to their Local Authority to register the Ground on the Local Authority’s List of Assets of Community Value.
Clubs with questions on this should contact Fussell Wright Solicitors. We will be watching the progress of the NPPF over the forthcoming months and will provide further updates if new information comes to light.
Solicitor with Fussell Wrights and Legal Adviser to the League Cricket Conference