Agent of change principle is not the main issue for the Planning Inspectorate

Jul 02, 2020

FROM: Monica Ferguson, chief executive and artistic director, The Stables

Dear Sir,

AS CHIEF executive and artistic director of The Stables, it was good to read the article by Theo Chalmers ‘Agent of Change’ rides in to rescue The Stables’ (Business MK, July 2020 edition). Support from the business community and commentators alike is important to everyone at The Stables and it is this community-led approach which will hopefully result in a successful outcome to the Abbey Homes appeals.

However, I do think it’s important to clarify the current position, as Mr Chalmers’ article is inaccurate in a number of ways. The planning position is that the applications by Abbey Homes to remove the deed of easement of noise are currently being determined by the Planning Inspectorate under two separate appeals. 

The agent of change principle is not the main issue for the Planning Inspectorate. That is because the appeal is focussing on a precise and technical point of planning law, namely, whether the imposition of the condition in the reserved matters approval derogated (i.e. departed from) the principle of the outline permission granted by the Local Planning Authority (Milton Keynes Council) for the residential scheme.

We have argued consistently that as the layout of the units was a matter ‘reserved’ under the outline permission, it was entirely lawful and proper for the LPA to impose a condition protecting The Stables from potential noise complaints when considering the detailed layout in the reserved matters submission. In fact, it was necessary, as the mitigation being proposed by Abbey Homes was inadequate, notwithstanding the requirements of the agent of change principles. 

This is also the position taken by the LPA in its representations to the Planning Inspectorate. If the technical argument put forward by The Stables and the LPA is won, the Inspector is likely to dismiss the appeals. However, that will not be because of the agent of change principles but because the decision by the LPA at the reserved matters stage was within the scope of the outline permission.

The other point to clarify is that Mr Chalmers states that “the easement is not the answer, apparently, as it is an unenforceable covenant trumped by the Human Rights Act.”  I do not know the basis for Mr Chalmers’ statement but, for the benefit of your readers, I can confirm that this is categorically not the case. The deed of easement is a lawful mechanism for protecting The Stables and does not infringe the Human Rights Act. 

The Stables has incurred significant expense in seeking legal advice on this matter for the past two years, and all our advice, including those of prominent QCs, have confirmed that our understanding is correct.

Once again, we are grateful to Mr Chalmers for his supportive article and we hope this clarification is equally helpful to him and to your readers.  

Anyone wishing to read the history of the planning matters can find out details on The Stables website www.stables.org

Yours faithfully

Monica R. Ferguson | Chief Executive & Artistic Director

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