Published: Thursday, 23rd July 2015
Planning Minister Brandon Lewis told Parliament this week that the government would intervene where local authorities had failed to produce a local plan by “early 2017”.
In a written Commons statement he said: “We will intervene to arrange for the plan to be written, in consultation with local people, to accelerate production of a Local Plan.”
The minister’s comments came as Lewis’s colleague Communities Secretary Greg Clark wrote to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate Simon Ridley voicing concern that some inspectors were taking too tough a line on shortcomings in some strategies.
The Secretary of State said: “We have recently seen significant positive plan-making progress: 82 per cent of authorities have now published local plans and 64 per cent adopted plans compared with 32 and 17 per cent in May 2010 respectively.
“It is imperative that this positive progress is maintained, and the government is open to taking further measures to achieve this if needed. As inevitably a plan cannot exactly account for future circumstances there is a real value in getting a local plan in place at the soonest opportunity, even if it has some shortcomings which are not critical to the whole plan.
“We have acknowledged this in planning guidance by setting out that local plans may be found sound conditional upon a review in whole or in part within five years of adoption. Many inspectors have already demonstrated commendable pragmatism and flexibility at examination to enable councils to get plans in place.
“I have, however, seen recent examples where councils are being advised to withdraw plans without being given the option to undertake further work to address shortcomings identified at examination. In order to maintain plan-making progress and to recognise the cost and time to a council prior to submitting a plan, it is critical that inspectors approach examination from the perspective of working pragmatically with councils towards achieving a sound local plan.”
Clark stressed the importance of inspectors highlighting significant issues to councils very early on, and of giving councils full opportunity to address issues.
He also highlighted a recent note published by the Planning Advisory Service where commitment to early review has featured in recently adopted local plans.