Districts call for simplification of planning process

29 Oct 15

District councils have called for process by which local plans are adopted to be overhauled through improved scrutiny and the creation of a national list of development policies.

In a submission to the government review of the planning process, the District Councils Network said the adoption of local plans could be quickened if they were simplified, with more flexible use of ‘supplementary’ documents that could be more readily updated.

Local plans are intended to give communities a greater say in development, including housing, and are to be approved by local referendum as well as by planning inspectors. The government’s Productivity Plan calls for local authorities to have them in place by the 2017.

The DCN stated the current approval process should be changed to allow for what it called “staged examination” through the development of proposals, so councils have more certainty that their plans are on the right track.

As well as the creation of a national ‘menu’ of development management policies, the government should also ensure that local planning is properly resourced, including allowing for cost recovery for planning applications.

The group also called for it to be made easier for councils to create strategic plans for housing across council boundaries to reflect housing market areas.

Gillian Brown, leader of Arun District Council who speaks for the DCN on planning matters, said there was a common interest in reaching successful reform of current planning arrangements.

“From a DCN perspective, our members require a clear explanation from government as to what the early 2017 deadline for producing local plans will actually entail.

“And on a more fundamental level, the government should review how they envisage resourcing the large number of plans that will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate at around the same time. Otherwise we risk creating a frustrating scenario, where districts which have compiled their plans according to the timetable find themselves sat in a long queue, waiting for an inspector to call.”

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