Published: Thursday, 25th February 2016
Councils will be able to compete to process planning applications and offer ‘fast track’ application services, under proposals for a series of pilots now out for consulation.
The administration said the proposals would increase local choice by giving applicants the option of whether to submit their plans to the local council, a competing council or a government-approved organisation, which would process applications up until the decision point.
Councils will also be able to offer the ‘fast track’ planning application service – either through competition pilots or potentially through devolution deals.
However, ministers have stressed that decision making on planning applications would remain with the local council.
These reforms are among other measures outlined by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in a consultation document, which also includes latest thinking on planning charges and detail on potential government intervention when planning authorities fail to produce local plans in a timely fashion.
DCLG has proposed that planning fees should rise in line with inflation and, crucially, performance. One approach could mean that councils which under perform in respect of major applications would not benefit from increased fees.
Another approach canvassed would mean limiting increases to those authorities that are in the top 75 per cent of performance for both the speed and quality of their decisions.
The department is consulting on revised thresholds in respect of major developments and new thresholds for non-major developments.
The department has also confirmed that the government will prioritise intervention over tardy local plan marking where there is under delivery of housing in areas of high housing pressure, where plans have not been kept up to date, where the least progress in plan-making has been made and where “intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating local plan production”.
Ministers will be checking to see if planning authorities are meeting the timetable they have set themselves, possibly on a six-month basis.