Compliance with the "duty to co-operate" contained in the Localism Act is the responsibility for local authorities and it must be met at the plan-making stage; it cannot be rectified when a local plan has been submitted for examination, said a planner from the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).
The duty to co-operate applies to planning authorities in the preparation of development plan documents so far as it relates to a strategic matter. The Inspector concluded that waste management was a strategic matter under the Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
"Consequently, the North London Councils have a duty to co-operate with the councils representing the 'planning areas' in which the waste would be managed or deposited," the Inspector said in a letter issued this week.
The local authorities are not "absolved from the duty" in the preparation of their waste plan, the Inspector said, and "I shall now consider whether co-operation has been carried out," the Inspector said.
The duty was also discussed at the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Planning Convention in London, according to a Planning Magazine report. The duty to co-operate has "big implications for us" said Keith Holland, a group manager at PINS.
"A very firm view" had been taken by lawyers at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), said Holland, according to the report. The view is that the new duty "applies to the plan-making stage...[and] plan preparation stops when you submit it to us".
If the duty to co-operate has not been complied with at the plan-making stage "we cannot help", he said. "The approach that we take to problems in local plan work is that, if possible, we give local authorities every opportunity to sort out problems that we identify. We are prepared to adjourn an examination. It’s in no-one’s interest to find plans unsound," said Holland, according to the report. "With the duty to cooperate, we don’t have that ability. If there is a problem we cannot say to you go away and sort out this problem".