Whilst the Localism Bill, and the general idea of localism, seemed fairly well received in the House of Lords yesterday, many concerns were raised over a number of issues covered by the Bill in its current form.
One of these is clause 124, which many Lords, as well as the CPRE, are concerned will distort the planning system by encouraging decisions based on financial implications. We have already posted a blog about the introduction of this clause.
It was pointed out that this is the first time that planning legislation has given an "explicit priority" to financial incentives in the application process (Baroness Andrews). Others noted that expressly referring to this and not listing other potential material considerations put finanacial considerations above others, leading to undue influence.
As many of the Lords asked, what is the planning interest in this? Planning is about the land-use merits of proposed developments, it is not simply a tool for economic growth and applications should not be decided by reference to "short-term financial implications" (Baroness Parminter). Viscount Simon stated that the system should ensure that decisions are made in the public interest, placing "equal importance on economic, social and environmental considerations", as has been the case since 1947.
There are calls for the clause to be withdrawn. Baroness Young of Old Scone summed up her views on the issue by referring to the clause as a "weasel clause" and setting out her deep suspicion of it. Strong words perhaps but the clause is sure to provoke further debate as the very purpose of the planning system is pitted against the recognised need for the country to support economic growth.