Readers may recall that from November 2012 to January 2013 the Government ran a consultation on various issues surrounding the principle, introduced in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, of applications being submitted straight to the Secretary of State where the relevant local planning authority had been designated as a “poor performer”.
CLG has now issued its response to the consultation and its criteria for designating authorities.
The current intention is to make initial designations of poorly performing authorities this October, and allow applications to be sent to the Secretary of State from that date.
It seems that many concerns were raised but, by and large, the Government is sticking to its original plan. Authorities will be measured against the speed and quality of their decisions. It is likely that the initial thresholds will be 30 per cent or fewer of major decisions made on time, or more than 20 per cent of major decisions overturned at appeal, with these thresholds being reviewed over time.
Designations will be made on an annual basis, as will de-designations for those authorities that have improved and met certain criteria set by the Secretary of State.
The procedures for how the Secretary of State will handle applications will be set out in regulations and guidance in due course (but to be issued before the initial designations in October). It is likely that the local authority will act as a statutory consultee, and be required to carry out some admin tasks (although it won’t receive any part of the application fee), such as putting up site notices and notifying neighbours, providing the planning history and updating the planning register. It will also be encouraged to negotiate and enter into section 106 agreements, with unilateral undertakings being a fall-back option for applicants. Applications are expected to be dealt with at public hearings, with decisions being issued shortly afterwards.
The consultation response contains reminders that the right to apply directly to the Secretary of State is a power only, and some applicants may chose to continue with their local authority, and rely on the appeal route as necessary.