Pickles: Planning moves are 'muscular localism'
The communities secretary has defended plans to allow the Planning Inspectorate to step in on council decisions, calling it ‘muscular localism’.
In his statement published this morning, Mr Pickles said the government will legislate to allow planning applications to be decided by the Planning Inspectorate where local authorities have ‘a track record of consistently poor performance in the speed or quality of its decisions’.
‘Planning is a quasi-judicial process: justice delayed is justice denied. It is unfair to all parties for local planning authorities simply to fail to make timely decisions on a planning application - creating uncertainty both for applicants and local residents,’ he added.
Under the plans unveiled by the prime minister this morning, developers would also be able to refer schemes to the Planning Inspectorate if they feel section 106 agreements governing the number of affordable homes they should provide are making schemes unviable. The inspectorate will have the power to reduce the number of affordable homes that are required, or remove them altogether.
To compensate for the reduction in section 106 homes the government is putting £300 million into building more affordable housing.
Mr Pickles said in a debate in the Commons this afternoon that the Labour party ‘represented the heavy hand of centralism’, whereas he represented ‘muscular localism’.
But critics have suggested today’s policy contravenes the government’s own Localism Act, by allowing central government to step in on a local decision.
Keith Hearn, senior planning director at CBRE, said: ‘Given a reinforcement of localism in this statement, i.e. local people and local authorities being at the heart of the planning system, tensions may well arise between a local community and its local authority in circumstances when the responsibility for determining an application is handed over to a central government agency because of tardiness on the part of the authority.’