I'm one of the few people outside East Coker who's been following every twist and turn of the planning process in South Somerset. The District Council plan - covering development in the area up to 2028 - is currently up in the air, after a government inspector said that in its current form it wouldn't pass muster.
Under new government rules, if there is no Local Plan in place, developers can propose schemes pretty much wherever they like. There is a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' in the national policy, a deliciously vague term which will surely generate a steady income for the legal profession over the next few years.
I spotted this comment today on a thread about planning policy (wake up at the back there)
Planning rules have already been massively relaxed with the adoption of the National Planning Policy Framework, with its mumbo jumbo "presumption in favour of sustainable development". In my area the Council has put together a 5 year housing plan which specifies where development may take place. Developers simply ignore it as it`s not yet been officially sanctified by the Planning Inspectorate, get turned down at local level and appeal to the Inspectorate, who then quote the "presumption" and allow the appeal, sometimes awarding costs against the Council, on the grounds that they have not demonstrated a 5 year supply of housing land.
The longer we have no Local Plan, the more opportunity there is (especially with the market picking up) for speculative applications. And what a national developer learns in one part of the country, they'll apply everywhere. The sooner we have the Plan in place the better - even if it isn't perfect, it will be better than the alternative.