DCLG consults on opening up planning to competition

18 Feb 16

Councils will have to compete with other authorities or companies to process planning applications in their area under Department for Communities and Local Government reforms intended to speed up decisions.

In proposals published today, pilot schemes would allow applicants to either apply to their local planning authority for the area or appoint an ‘approved provider’ to manage the planning application process. This could be a competing council or a government-approved organisation that would process applications up to decision stage. Responsibility for the final decision would remain with the local authority.

DCLG said these pilots, which will run for a limited period of time in specific geographic areas across the country, would not prevent planning authorities from continuing to process applications nor force them to outsource services.

However, it would mean other approved providers would be able to compete to drive down the time taken for applications to be processed.

Communities secretary Greg Clark said council planning departments play a vital role in getting local housebuilding off the ground, but “had no incentive to get things done quickly or better”.

“These proposals will be a boost for housebuilders looking to build much-needed new homes for hard working families and first time buyers, and for local people looking to get a planning permission for home improvements through their local council quicker,” he stated.

As well as allowing for competition for managing planning applications, the government also proposed allow authorities to create a fast-track application service, for which higher charges to be levied.

A consultation on the competition pilots and fast-track services is published today and runs until Friday 15 April. It is intended to implement provisions of the government’s Housing and Planning Bill.

Today’s consultation also proposes the creation of a new dispute resolution body to resolve disagreements around section 106 planning deals. A body would be designated by Clark to resolve issues in cases where the local planning authority would be likely to grant planning permission but there were unresolved issues relating to the final obligations.

Future regulations may set a size threshold or other criteria that applications must meet in order to be eligible for dispute resolution, but ministers do not propose not to set any thresholds at this stage.

The consultation also confirmed DCLG would intervene in authorities where no local plan for housing and development has been produced by “early 2017” to arrange for one to be written, in consultation with local people.

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