Government threatens to get tough with local authorities that fail to draw up local development frameworks

Councils that do not get their local plans up to date will risk financial penalties and having central government take planning decisions for them, according to a senior government official.

Richard McCarthy, director general of housing and planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), said the department would use the awarding of the proposed £400m housing and planning delivery grant to “penalise” councils that did not finish drawing up their local development frameworks in time.

All local authorities were supposed to draw up LDFs by February 2008, following their introduction with the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. However, by that date just 26 had done so, and the department now estimates that not all councils will complete the process until 2013.

Richard McCarthy

McCarthy also warned councils that new planning guidance would allow developers to submit planning applications on land not designated for development if plans were not up to date, with the DCLG deciding whether they should go ahead. “You might also find us doing your planning for you if you don’t get up to date,” he said.

McCarthy’s comments, made at the 2008 Chartered Institute of Housing annual conference, followed a presentation by Peter Quinn, head of business development at social housing contractor Lovell, saying that the government needed to take urgent action on planning or risk missing its housebuilding targets.

Quinn said: “The government must ensure compliance with the timetable for getting new development frameworks forward – there must be a case for fast-tracking some of these.”

Prime minister Gordon Brown has pledged to build 2 million homes by 2016 and 3 million by 2020. Quinn added: “There’s a triple whammy now – the credit crunch, the planning system, and increasing regulation, which could create a perfect storm stopping building. We won’t get to 3 million without a realistic review.”