Defra begins final week of consultation on introducing conservation covenants  

Defra begins final week of consultation on introducing conservation covenants  

The Government’s consultation on the introduction of conservation covenants is running into its final week and will end on the 22 March 2019.   

In line with its 25 year Environment Plan, the Government has been examining the legal process that could be implemented to allow parties to secure lasting conservation benefit.  

The consultation said: “A conservation covenant is a private, voluntary agreement between a landowner and a “responsible” body, such as a conservation charity, government body or a local authority. It delivers lasting conservation benefit for the public good. A covenant sets out obligations in respect of the land which will be legally binding not only on the landowner but on subsequent owners of the land”. 

This subject has gained prominence through a recent judgement at the High Court, when it was found that an amenity group was substantially prejudiced by a consultation on main modifications to a Local Plan, which did not make clear that a site was no longer to be designated as Local Green Space (LGS).  The only way this could have been known was from reading the Inspector’s Report, which did not form part of the consultation on the main modifications.

The amenity group were seeking that the local playing fields be designated as LGS, but did not appreciate the implication would be the de-designation of the playing fields and as a result did not respond to the consultation regarding the main modifications to the London Borough of Richmond.    After the consultation ended, prompted by the responses submitted by the developer, Mr Jopling from the amenity group, read the Inspector’s Report and wrote to the Council raising his concerns and included a detailed response to that Report. 

The Council considered Mr Jopling’s case to be robust but said (with reference to “para 5.2.4. of Planning Inspectorate guidance”) that the de-designation of the site was not a Main Modification because it was an amendment to the Proposals Map, and the Council was bound by the content of the Inspector’s Report. The Council adopted the Plan. 

A consultation on main modifications to a Local Plan should have explained proposed changes to Proposals Map 

The judge held: “[…] this reading of paragraph 5.2.4 and what the Inspector was doing, was misconceived. In truth the de-designation was an MM [main modification] but expressed very obliquely.” 

Mr Jopling’s principal ground of challenge to the adoption of the Local Plan succeeded on the basis that the consultation process was manifestly unfair and therefore a procedural requirement in connection with the adoption of the local plan was not complied with. The arguments in favour of designation clearly showed that the de-designation of the site might not have happened if Mr Jopling had had a proper opportunity to take part in the consultation. 

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