• East Devon planners urge cllrs to object to centralisation

    2nd January 2013 | News | Claire
  • In a consultation response report to councillors on the Development Management Committee to be considered next week, Head of planning, Ed Freeman, gives a firm message – that government plans are quite wrong and should be challenged.

    The consultation is to firm up proposals over the controversial Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which is currently wending its way through the House of Commons.

    Among many other controversial aspects, the Bill proposes to allow developers to submit planning applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate where councils have been designated as ‘poorly performing.’

    A decision over whether a council was ‘poorly performing’ authority would be made largely on its speed in determining planning applications, potentially regardless of the context of why it may have taken longer than the statutory 13 weeks to come to a decision.

    Poorly performing authorities would not only not be permitted to determine major applications, but it appears that the Government also proposes to remove the ability for the authority to charge a planning fee for applications that are considered by the Secretary of State.

    Mr Freeman’s response to Question 10 (below) is absolutely right and an answer that I am sure every resident in the district would agree with.

    Question 10: Do you agree that the option to apply directly to the Secretary of State should be limited to applications for major developments?
    Answer: The concept of allowing developers to apply to the Secretary of State is fundamentally at odds with the Localism agenda which would suggest that decisions should be made at the local level.

    To then suggest that the application should be considered primarily by written representations giving the local community little or no opportunity to make their views known in person is unacceptable.

    There is no indication how designated authorities are expected to pay for undertaking all of the admin and other elements of applications that are being undertaken by the Inspectorate. A proportion of the fee should be retained by the Local Planning Authority to cover their costs otherwise the authorities concerned will be significantly under resourced which would significantly impact on their ability to improve. 

    An answer to question 12 (below) reveals the serious implications of removing funding from a poorly performing authority. 

    Question 12: Do you agree with the proposed approach to supporting and assessing improvement in designated (as poorly performing) authorities? Are there specific criteria or thresholds that you would propose?
    Answer: No – It is difficult to see how any authority could possibly improve if designated given that it would have lost a substantial proportion of its income due to the loss of fee income from major applications particularly as the fees for major applications in reality exceed the cost of dealing with these applications and prop up funding of the service as a whole.

    There is also a danger that designation would lead to the loss of experienced senior staff who would usually work on major applications either through redundancy if they are no longer needed or simply because they will seek the challenges of this type of work elsewhere.

    From this situation an authority would not have the resources to be able to recover and improve performance.

    In addition specific help and support needs to be put in place using a dedicated resource rather than relying on existing support mechanisms which are under resourced and would be unable to provide the necessary level of support………………………………………….- Ends –

    We can only hope our MPs see sense and make significant improvements to what is currently a wrecking ball disguised as a Government Bill.

    The next Development Management Committee meeting takes place on Tuesday 8 January, starting at 2pm.  The agenda is below and this consultation report starts on page 26.