Government, the Planning Inspector and Castle Point Council

Government announces plans to accelerate large housing schemes and allow Planning Inspectorate to decide applications directly

“Government has announced plans to accelerate delivery of major housing schemes and to allow the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) to make decisions on planning applications where the local authority has a ‘consistently poor’ track record in the speed or quality of their decisions.07 Sep 2012

The Government will work in partnership with local authorities, scheme promoters and communities to accelerate delivery of locally-supported, major housing sites, said Secretary of State Eric Pickles. The focus will be on sites that have support for growth from their local area, a strong demand for new homes and good prospects for early delivery. 

Off-site construction is identified as a method that can create skilled jobs and improve the quality of homes. The Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have set up an advisory group of industry experts tasked with identifying barriers to growth and ways to incentivise increased use of off-site construction. The group will deliver their proposals in time for next year’s Budget. 

Government has further set out plans for legislation to give the Planning Inspectorate power to make decisions on planning applications. This will happen where a local authority has a track record of consistently poor performance in the speed or quality of its decisions.”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,” said Pickles. 

The plans are part of a series of measures in a major housing and planning package announced by Government. They have been set out to help deliver up to new 70,000 homes, including affordable housing, 140,000 jobs and a £40 billion infrastructure guarantee.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has set out their views on the housing package. LGA said the fundamental barrier to acceleration of large housing schemes is access to development and mortgage finance. As for allowing PINS to decide planning applications, LGA said there was a “paradox in suggesting that PINS should intervene to speed up some council decisions and simultaneously announcing that PINS’ own appeals process is too slow.” LGA suggested it would make more sense to prioritise “proper funding for swift decisions.”

In addition to the infrastructure guarantee, £300 million will be put towards the provision of up to 15,000 affordable homes. However, new Housing Minister Mark Prisk has emphasised the necessity of support from private funding to succeed with the building of affordable homes,   according to an Inside Housing report . 

“It is not just about every pound we spend, it is how we lever in private sector funds” said Prisk. He added that the £4.5 billion government support for affordable homes in the 2011 to 2015 spending round had attracted £15 billion private funding.” courtesy Out-Law.com

Of course Castle Point Council will exempt themselves from these plans. Despite development growth, in the Northern part of the Borough, being almost non- existant for the last 40 years and with Cllr Partridge’s comments at the withdrawal meeting of the Core Strategy during which development sites were discussed, “go away Mr Inspector, we don’t want you here!”

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