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Monday, 18 July 2011

Let's Presume in Favour of 'Sustainable' Growth

The new Localism Bill contains quite a few daft ideas! For example there is talk of a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development'.

Sounds good doen't it? But what does this mean?

Actually it's impossible to tell because, like many of this Government's hair-brained schemes, 'sustainable growth' has not been properly defined. In fact, it's not actually been defined at all.

Of course, one of the problems of a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' (even if an acceptable definition is forthcoming) is the cost implication for local planning authorities - or the excuse that this will provide for Alex Robertson et al to insist that development go ahead.

This is because developers will simply have to say 'this is sustainable development' and then there will be a presumption in favour of their plans. The burden of proof will have switched to the planning authority to prove that it isn't 'sustainable development' with all the cost implications that this will involve.

So in the future, local planning authorities will not only be scared of opposing development, in case of an appeal and the associated costs, they won't even be able to put up a reasonable defense of the positions in their 'strategic plans' because to do so will involve all the costs of proving the correctness of their policy.

This idea is the equivalent of shifting the burden of proof in criminal law. Be prepared, it may soon be that if you are accused of crime you will have to prove your innocence rather than having the police prove your guilt.

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