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The Sequential Test in planning - Overview

Planning a sequential approach to development goes to the heart of the planning system. Essentially it means going through a sequence of tests when considering the location of new development. This is to ensure that development is located in the most sustainable location first, before other, less sustainable locations are chosen.

Government planning policy, contained in the National Planning Policy Framework, sets out two formal uses of the Sequential Test:

  • In relation to the location of retail development, and

  • In relation to the location of development in areas at risk from flooding

However, it is important to realise that taking a sequential approach to the location of development is an important tool in the development of local planning policy. In some cases, other national planning policy will dictate such an approach.

For example, to locate new built development in the Green Belt, or to release land from the Green Belt requires a local authority or an applicant for planning permission to demonstrate that there are very special circumstances for this decision.

In effect, this creates the need to apply a sequential test, to demonstrate that there is no more suitable location for the development which would lie outside the Green Belt. So, if land is to be released from the Green Belt for housing, it would need to be concluded that the housing could not be provided on land within urban areas.

The Sequential Test for retail development

This is set out in paragraphs 24 to 27 of the National Planning Policy Framework. This requires that applications for main town centre uses (e.g. shops) should be located in town centre locations. If that is not possible, then they should locate in edge of centre locations, and only if suitable sites are not available should out of centre sites be considered.

The intention of this sequential test is to ensure that retail and other development appropriate in town centres is not located in such a way as to draw trade away from the town centre.

The Sequential Test for development in areas of flood risk

This is set out in paragraphs 100 to 104 of the National Planning Policy Framework. The aim of this sequential test is to steer new development toward areas with the lowest probability of flooding. Development should not be allocated or permitted if there are reasonably available sites appropriate for that development in areas of lower probability of flood risk.

Flood risk has a significant impact on development in Christchurch and the council has undertaken a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment. A detailed explanation of the sequential test as applied for flood risk can be found by following the link below.

The Sequential Test for new housing development - Christchurch

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