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Minister insists there will be checks on ‘planning in principle’

Published: Thursday, 28th January 2016

The Government insisted this week that its proposals for granting planning in principle would be “locally driven” and subject to both public consultation and consideration against planning policy.

That claim came from Government minister Baroness Williams of Trafford during the second reading debate of the Housing and Planning Bill in the Lords on Tuesday (26 January).

She also suggested that “ambitious and high-performing” local authorities would be interested in the opportunity to compete to process planning applications in other areas.

The minister said: “The decision to grant planning permission in principle will be locally driven where a choice is made to allocate land for housing-led development in a local plan, neighbourhood plan and new brownfield register.

This will promote plan-led development and ensure that decisions take place within a framework that includes the engagement of communities and others, as well as consideration of development against local and national policy, including important matters such as heritage and, of course, flooding.”

Later she told peers: “I believe that there is an appetite for greater competition in the planning system, although I must point out that the decisions remain with the local planning authorities.

“We anticipate that a number of ambitious and high-performing local authorities will also want to compete to process planning applications in other areas.”

Earlier Baroness Williams described the Bill as “a shot in the arm for planning”. Opposition and cross-bencher peers lined up to disagree and complain about the amount of detail which was waiting for, as yet, unpublished secondary legislation. The minister promised clarification and consultation on many issues.

Peers were also critical about many of the planning provisions. The measures were characterised as “a serious assault on the planning system” and a “generally dreadful bill”. That was cross-bencher Lord Kerslake, a former permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Labour peer Lord McKenzie of Luton complained that the Bill was crammed with new centralising powers for the Secretary of State. He argued that this “moves us inexorably away from a planning system anchored in the democratic processes of the local community”.

And he added: “Why will the Government not properly resource local authorities’ depleted planning departments and make sensible provision for planning fees?”

View the Parliamentary transcript

Roger Milne