INDEPENDENT EXAMINATION OF THE RISELEY NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
EXAMINER: Wendy Burden BA (Hons) DipTP MRTPI
To: Sam Langley – Clerk to Riseley Parish Council
To: Sonia Gallaher – Bedford Borough Council
Examination Ref: 03/WB/RNP
11 September 2023
Dear Mrs Langley and Ms Gallaher
I have a number of further questions for Riseley Parish Council (the RPC/Parish Council) and would also like to clarify my position in relation to the legal scope of my role as the appointed Examiner of the Riseley Neighbourhood Plan (the Plan).
I set out below 8 questions to which I would be grateful for a response from the Parish Council by 25 September 2023. Given the extent to which the questions relate to Bedford Borough Council’s (BBC) Development Plan policies, relevant comments from BBC would also be helpful.
The questions principally relate to the repetition in the Plan of a number of similar policies which can already be found elsewhere in National Policy and/or the extant Developmental Plan for the area.
Paragraph 16 f) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that Plans should ‘serve a clear purpose, avoiding unnecessary duplication of policies that apply to a particular area (including policies in this Framework, where relevant)’. It is, therefore, not necessary to repeat in the Plan matters that are quite adequately dealt with elsewhere, albeit there may be scope to give emphasis to those issues particularly relevant in the context of the Parish.
With this in mind and the specific requirements of the Basic Conditions, I have the following questions:
- (a) Policy D2 Page 23: the matters covered in the Policy are generally wide ranging rather than locally specific in character. Energy and water efficiency and sustainable design are addressed in the Bedford Borough Local Plan 2030 (BBLP 2030) through Policies 52, 53 and 54. Furthermore, they are the subject of Building Regulation control.Taking this into account, please explain the rationale behind what would appear to me to be the unnecessary duplication of policies.
(b) In addition to the matter of duplication, there are some provisions within Policy D2 which address matters which are in addition to those covered in BBLP 2030. These include the retrofitting of heritage properties and alterations to existing buildings. However, BBLP Policy 54 specifically excludes extensions and renovations to existing properties.
Please direct me to the local justification underpinning these additional matters in the policy.
- Policy F1 Page 25: These matters appear to be covered adequately by policies of the BBLP 2030, in particular Policy 92 (together with its supporting text) and Policy 93.As in Question 1. (a) above, please explain the rationale behind the apparent unnecessary duplication of policies.
- Policy HE3: Scheduled monuments and archaeological sites are protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (as amended). The statutory provisions in the Act are carried forward into National Policy as set out in the NPPF and further established through Policy 41S in the BBLP 2030.Please explain why the existing statutory and policy provision are not sufficient to provide appropriate protection?
- Policy H1: I can see no special justification for the requirement in bullet point 3.Please explain further.
- Policy CF1: I have several points in relation to Policy CF1:
- The policy addresses the protection of existing community facilities. Whilst it is appropriate for the RNP to specify the premises which it seeks to protect, the list includes a number of commercial enterprises. Policy 99 of the BBLP provides for the protection of certain such facilities.
- With regard to the local convenience shop, the Giddy Goat Café and the Fox and Hounds public house, the acknowledgement of the importance of such premises is recognised in paragraph 11.58 of the BBLP and their protection is provided through Policy 83. Whilst Policy 83 does not specifically name the premises to be protected in Riseley, it is clearly structured to ensure that any change of use of these premises would be subject to an appropriate level of scrutiny to provide sufficient protection. I see no good reason for them to be listed in Policy RNP8 of the RNDP.
- National policy does not provide for the protection of commercial premises such as the HP Motors Garage and the Residential Care Home. It would therefore be unduly onerous for these businesses to be included within Policy CF1.
- With regard to the tests in Policy CF1 against which any proposals which resulted in the loss of or harm to the community facilities would be considered, the matter of viability, set out in the second and third clauses of the Policy, is relevant to the commercial uses. Those commercial uses which are subject to BBLP 2030 Policy 83 in accordance with the NPPF (the local convenience shop, the Café and the public house) would be subject to a viability test in any event.
- The remaining facilities would be the village hall and the All Saints Church (which it is appropriate to list in Policy CF1). However, these would also be subject to the tests in Policy 99 of the BBLP 2030.
I welcome observations on the points raised above.
- Policy CF2: The first clause of Policy CF2 appears unnecessary since existing designated open spaces are subject to detailed protection through both national and local plan policies. With regard to the second clause which refers to recreational facilities, these are subject to BBLP 2030 Policy 99.Is there any justification for rephrasing or repeating protection which already applies?
- Policy TT1: The first clause in the policy duplicates the provisions made in detail in BBLP 2030 Policy 91. Furthermore, the second clause setting out measures to keep traffic speeds low comprise traffic management, which is not a land use matter.Please comment.
- Policy LEB1: The fourth and fifth clauses in LEB1 address broad band connectivity. Policy 44 of the BBLP 2030 deals in detail with the requirement for on-site infrastructure to support the installation of, and allow the future upgrade and maintenance of, fibre optic broadband technology in new non-residential developments.I question whether the duplication of these requirements is appropriate?
Conduct of the Parish Council
In my letter of 25 August 2023, I sought to emphasise that I am not prepared to get into a cycle of responses and counter responses to further unsolicited submissions, concerning issues raised around the propriety of parish council meeting procedures (including opportunities to attend) and similar related points. I am aware that further unsolicited correspondence on these issues has continued to circulate alleging there are shortcomings in the Parish Council’s administrative procedures. Whilst I am considering compliance with the statutory neighbourhood planning requirements relating to consultation on the draft Plan (and relevant advice in national Planning Practice Guidance), my role is not to consider the propriety or otherwise of the formal administration of the Parish Council.
Accordingly, the sector led publication, ‘Guidance to service users and examiners’ advises in paragraph 1.16 that ‘An independent examiner has no authority to consider such allegations of misconduct. Such matters should be dealt with through internal complaints handling procedures of the qualifying body or local planning authority”. I see no reason to depart from this advice and, as previously stated, will not engage further in such correspondence.
In the interests of transparency, may I prevail upon you to ensure that a copy of this letter is placed on both the RPC and BBC websites.
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
 View at https://www.rics.org/content/dam/ricsglobal/documents/dispute-resolution-service/Npiers_Planning_Guidance_To_Service_Users_And_Examiners_Rics.pdf This comprehensive guidance on the examination process was produced by a sector led working party comprising examiners and representatives from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Intelligent Plans and Examinations, Locality and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (as was).