How the government's planning performance measures could impact your development
The government's planning performance measures have hit the headlines of late. As part of the drive to hasten the rate of development in Britain, policymakers have increasingly stepped in to strip powers from planning authorities that fail to meet targets in terms of both speed and the quality of decisions they've made.
Developers seeking to undertake projects in areas affected by these measures have the option to sidestep local authorities and take their application straight to the planning inspectorate. And in this guide, we'll take a look at the policy behind this process and consider examples of how it's worked in practice.
Section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows applications for planning permission and reserved matters consent to be made directly to the Secretary of State where they involve major development and the Local Planning Authority for the area has lost some of their planning powers (known as 'designation') as a result of previous underperformance in handling major applications.
Designations were previously made by the Secretary of State on Local Planning Authorities where 30% or fewer of an authority’s decisions on applications for major development were made within the statutory period. That means eight weeks for standard applications, 13 weeks for large, more complex applications or whatever longer period an applicant has agreed. This threshold has now been raised to 40% where Councils falling beneath the threshold will lose some of their powers.
Where a Local Planning Authority is designated, applications for major development can, if the applicant choses, be made directly to the Secretary of State. The Planning Inspectorate will then handle the applications on his behalf.
Performance Measures in Action
Now we've covered the theory behind the government's performance measures, we'lll take a look at an example that demonstrates how this policy works in practice.
The first application submitted under the government's planning performance measures was decided on 22nd July 2014 on behalf of the Secretary of State.
This fell within Blaby District Council, which is currently the only council that is designated. At the time it was designated in November 2013, Blaby Council was the lowest scoring district authority for determining major applications on time over the two-year monitoring period - deciding just 15.2% on time.
This outline planning application was for up to 220 new dwellings in Blaby. It was submitted by Gladman Developments directly to the Planning Inspectorate and refused by inspector Jonathan King.
When a standard application is submitted to a Local Planning Authority, it is allocated to a case officer within the planning department who will either see the application through to determination as a delegated decision or refer it to be decided at Planning Committee.
In regards to Blaby, unlike standard applications that have been decided by the Local Planning Authority, a decision made by the Inspector (acting on behalf of the Secretary of State) cannot be appealed in the conventional manner. The decision can only be challenged by means of a claim for judicial review which must be done within the statutory period of time of six weeks from the date of the decision.
Other at-risk authorities
While Blaby District Council is currently the only authority to be designated in this way, there are several others that could be targeted under the government's efficiency drive.
Similarly, some Councils are at risk of partial designation, which means only some of their powers will be stripped. For instance, Trafford County Council has been designated with effect from 30 May 2014, but just for ‘County Matters’ (effectively Minerals and Waste applications) and not ‘normal’ development control functions.
If you've been affected by dealing with a designated local authority, or have any thoughts on the government's push for expediency in development – be sure to leave us a comment below or send us a tweet!
And if you're looking for any advice on submitting a planning application in a designated area, or the application process in general, don't hesitate to get in touch with NJL today.
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