Salt Cross: a serious error of judgement

In July 2022 I wrote about the disbelief and despair at the Planning Inspectorate’s (PINS’) decision to remove critical climate targets from the proposed Salt Cross Area Action Plan for a new garden village in West Oxfordshire. PINS has now published its Inspector’s Report on the plan which upholds this flawed decision. In doing so they have relied, to a significant extent, on a 2015 written ministerial statement (WMS). The 2015 WMS placed a series of caveats on the ability of local authorities to set carbon reduction targets on issues relating to the carbon performance of buildings in local plans.

In July we published a statement which made clear that the 2015 WMS was badly out of date and should not be used as a sound basis for local plan policy development. The TCPA notes that in the cases of Cornwall and Bath and North East Somerset plan examinations PINS accepted this reality. We will shortly be updating our statement to reflect the contents of the Inspector’s Report but in the interim, and in the absence of any action from the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities, the TCPA wishes to provide the following advice to LPAs developing policy on carbon reduction targets:

  • You are obliged by statute to include policy in your plan which addresses climate mitigation.
  • You are obliged by the NPPF to develop such policy in line with the Climate Act and this means you need to have regard to the 6th carbon budget.
  • You must have regard to the 2015 WMS in the same way as any national policy.
  • Having had regard to the WMS you should place little or no weight on its contents because the statement is demonstrably out of date. It has been superseded by a raft of planning and energy policy and assumes changes to the law relating to the 2008 Energy Act which were never enacted.

You can find more detail on these points in our recent guide for local authorities on planning for climate change published by the TCPA and the RTPI.

In my personal professional judgement it was both unreasonable and irrational of PINS to place significant weight on the 2015 WMS in the assessment of the Salt Cross Garden Village AAP. I would urge LPAs to continue to develop policy which delivers radical reductions in carbon emissions based on the evidence and framed around measurable and prescriptive targets. This is the only logical way of delivering on obligations in planning law and in the NPPF.

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