The Ministerial Statement that accompanied the Budget will be welcomed by many as the Government’s strongest commitment yet to making sure a localised planning system delivers development - and its impact on the decision making process should be felt immediately.
The short statement issued by Greg Clarke, the Minister for Decentralisation, could not be clearer in its instruction to local planning authorities. At its heart is the announcement that the Secretary of State will attach significant weight to economic growth and job creation - and will expect planning authorities to do the same.
The statement contained several announcements, including a clear instruction to planning authorities to get up-to-date policies in place quickly and to make sure that those policies support and encourage sustainable growth. In the absence of up-to-date local policy, the statement will carry even more weight.
With immediate effect, the statement sets out several factors that the Government expects LPAs to consider when determining planning applications. These factors include:
- the importance of national policies to promote economic growth and job creation;
- the need to maintain a flexible supply of land for key sectors, including housing; and
- ensuring that no unnecessary burden on is placed on development.
The viability of consented development is also dealt with in the statement, with the Government making it clear that all LPAs should, at a developer’s request, review existing planning agreements and where possible modify those agreements to enable development to go ahead.
Comment: The importance of this statement should not be underestimated. At a time when there is much uncertainty about how to approach decision-making, this statement gives clear and unambiguous backing to the need for the planning system to put economic growth and job creation at its heart. It is a material consideration that Inspectors will pay close attention to on appeal and should also therefore be taken seriously by LPAs. Likewise, developers struggling to make existing consents viable and deliverable in the current market will find the statement a powerful tool.
Perhaps more important however are the less immediate implications. This statement and the Budget itself were the strongest signs yet that the Government is committed to development and will not allow localism to become the means by which some communities seek to pull-up the drawbridge on new development. We have said before that the content of the much anticipated National Planning Policy Framework will be key to making localism work; if it is as unambiguously pro-growth and pro-development as this statement then many of the industry’s fears may yet prove unfounded.