Planning policies are essential tools for guiding development, encompassing various aspects of society, the environment, and the economy. Interpreting these policies ‘to the letter’ holds several advantages. By adhering to the exact wording of policies, planners can maintain consistency and fairness in decision-making, enhancing public trust in the planning process.

Furthermore, one of the primary benefits of interpreting planning policies ‘to the letter’ is the avoidance of unintended consequences. When policies are loosely interpreted, there is a risk of deviating from the intended objectives and compromising the intended outcomes. Strict adherence to the wording of policies, therefore, helps prevent such unintended consequences, safeguarding the effectiveness and integrity of the policies.

Moreover, interpreting policies ‘to the letter’ fosters transparency and trust in the planning process, as people can rely on the predictability and fairness of the decisions made.

Meanwhile, it is also worth noting that courts have consistently emphasized the importance of interpreting planning policies ‘to the letter’. Therefore, there are few alternatives to deviating from what is written in a policy document.

While adhering to planning policies ‘to the letter’ brings numerous benefits, it is important to acknowledge the challenges posed by outdated policies. Over time, societal needs, technological advancements, and environmental considerations may evolve, rendering certain policies obsolete or inadequate. To give some perspective, our Local Plans have not undergone comprehensive revisions since 2006. As things stand, strict adherence to outdated policies can certainly hinder progress and restrict innovative and sustainable development practices. Indeed, I have consistently argued the view that Article 72(2) of the Development Planning Act  recognizes the importance of material considerations in overcoming the limitations of outdated policies and striking a balance between rigidity and adaptability.

However, the focus of this blog post is on my recent publication that delves into the significance of strict adherence to the intended wording of policies as mandated by the courts.