Until this Direction was issued, there were various Directions which required local planning authorities to refer applications for certain development to the Secretary of State where they were minded to grant permission.

In those cases, the authority was prevented from determining the application for a period of 21 days. During this time the Secretary of State could decide to call in the application for determination (i.e. remove it from the local planning authority), decline to call it in, or issue a holding direction which prevented determination for such period as the Secretary of State determined.

The new Direction consolidates the earlier Directions but makes a number of changes to the process.

Local Planning Authorities must now refer the following applications:

  • Inappropriate development in the Green Belt (as defined in PPG2). This consists of buildings with floorspace of 1,000m² or more, or any other development which would have a significant impact on the openness of the green belt by reason of its scale, nature or location
  • Development outside town centres, including retail, leisure or office use which is proposed in edge of centre, out of centre or out of town locations and which:
    • is not in accordance with the Development Plan; or
    • involves a building with floorspace of 5,000m² or more; or
    • involves extensions or new development of 2,500m² or more and which, when aggregated with existing floorspace, would exceed 5,000m². Development within 1km of the development site is to be taken into account in this formula and should include development completed within the past five years, applications not yet determined and unimplemented approvals from the past five years
  • Playing field land where either:
    • the land is currently owned by a local authority; or
    • it is used by an educational establishment as a playing field (or has been within the last five years)
  • Flood risk area. Where the proposal is for "major development" and there is an extant objection from the Environment Agency. "Major development" for these purposes comprises:
    • residential development of 10 or more houses or land of 0.5ha or more; or
    • non-residential development comprising of 1,000 m² or more of floorspace or land of 1ha or more
  • World Heritage Sites where there is an objection from English Heritage which has not been withdrawn


There are several changes to the original Directions. Of most significance is the change to the "departure" Direction. Previously any departure from the development plan would have to have been referred, but it appears that only those outlined above are now referable. That should greatly reduce the numbers of matters being referred to the Secretary of State.