LGA slams ‘flawed’ plan to bypass councils on planning

30 Jul 13
Councils face being stripped of planning powers on dubious grounds, the Local Government Association has warned.

By Mark Smulian | 30 July 2013

Councils face being stripped of planning powers on dubious grounds, the Local Government Association has warned.

Government proposals to allow developers to bypass local planners in councils deemed ‘under performing’ would leave ‘unelected bureaucrats’ in the Planning Inspectorate to take decisions instead of councillors, the LGA said. 

The row has arisen over proposals to allow developers to take applications for planning permission straight to the inspectorate – normally accessible only in an appeal against a local decision.

This would apply in as-yet-unnamed councils deemed tardy in deciding on applications.

Those ‘designated’ – where the direct route to the inspectorate will apply – will be named in the autumn once final data is available.

Mike Jones, chair of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said: ‘This is an unnecessary and fundamentally flawed approach that will do nothing to help growth

‘Councils have been focusing on working with developers to iron out problems, improve development and make the right decision rather than turning down an application to meet a deadline.

‘Councils are now being told long after the fact that they should have been focusing instead on a ticking clock.’

The new rules concern ‘major’ developments, of which 87% were already approved by councils, Jones said.

These are for:

•    minerals extraction;

•    waste disposal and treatment;

•    housing schemes of more than 10 homes or on a site of 0.5 hectares or more;

•    any building with a floor space of 1,000 square metres or more or on a site of one hectare or more;

The LGA is particularly concerned about the impact on smaller councils that rarely receive such applications and whose overall performance can thus be adversely skewed by problems arising with their processing.

Councils risk being designated if more than 20% of their decisions have been overturned on appeal in the preceding two years or if they make 30% or fewer of such decisions within the statutory time limit – unless variation have been agreed with developers.

Planning minister Nick Boles has published a listing of councils’ performance ahead of final decision on designation in the autumn.

He said: ‘It’s quite right that communities and developers looking to provide homes and jobs are able to see how efficiently applications are processed by their council.

‘This list helps people to compare, and see how their council is performing, and allows councils to see where they need to improve to provide a better planning service to their communities.’


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