This forum and my thread have demonstrated once again that this might often feel like a lonely task, but there's plenty of others out there dealing with the same old problems every day.
The general consensus is that we should require a desk-study with all new residential developments. Pragmatism has lost to fear of liability and that would seem a sensible result if your heads on the block. Many, of you, including myself have probably experienced sites with significant contamination issues which were only brought to light by a good desk-study. In most cases a desk-study I had to fight for too. However, planners do seem generally reluctant to take this approach for whatever reason, and I think we have a responsibility to raise awareness and ensure that workable, PPS23 compliant policies are adopted at local level. This is not just training at planninjg officer level but suitable briefings to the mangers/directors responsible for making the decisions and allocating sufficient resource. Lets not forget the spirit of the guidance; it's there to promote environmental improvement not an epidemic of sloppy shoulder syndrome. The planners rely on the opinion !
of the inspectorate who will apply the usual planning condition tests of reasonable, necessary etc under the circular and in my experience this means they expect a desk-study only where contamination is already suspected. An approach not generally supported by those writing to this thread (and apparently not in the spirit of PPS23). So, if we want to make our planners more aware someone needs to approach the inspectorate as well? Something beyond our remit.
A few of you indicated that the wholesale application of such a condition could not be managed within their office. I do sympathise. The phase II's currently sitting in my in-tray are probably sufficient to balance the city's carbon dioxide emissions! But if the desk study's weren't so poor we wouldn't have to spend hours holding developers hands. PPS23 clearly indicates what is required of a desk-study. Awareness amongst developers and those that supply information is required and without the support of our planners that's a thankless task.
I'm not trying to make the situation sound all doom and gloom. I'm sure the situation can be improved and those out there with an opinion can help. Should we not be asking for additional guidance for PPS23, a national training/awareness programme for planners and the inspectorate and an industry standard for e-reports? Something that the standing conference might want to add to their already packed schedule.
Senior Scientific Officer
Southampton City Council
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