Shadow environment spokesman Archie Norman has called for the abolition of the secretary of state’s power to intervene in planning decisions.

The proposal is contained in a draft document due to be published next month that outlines Conservative Party policy on planning and housebuilding.

Former Asda boss Norman has also called for a fast-track independent appeals tribunal to clear the log-jam of developments in the planning system.

In addition, the Tories want an end to regional planning guidance and regional targets set by central government for the number of new houses to be built.

A spokesperson for Norman said: “We want local authorities to be able to set their own targets. We think local people are better placed to decide where and how to build.”

Norman is also thought to be working on alternative plans to promote brownfield development. The measures have cost implications and details will be withheld until nearer to the general election.

The news comes as the government’s strategy for meeting housing demand in the South-east suffered a setback.

The Conservative-dominated planning authority SERPLAN voted against government proposals to build 43 000 homes annually in the South-east.

SERPLAN chose instead to back a proposal put forward by Stephen Crow, a government adviser on housing. Crow said 33 000 homes should be built annually for the the next five years.

A spokesperson for construction minister Nick Raynsford said the minister felt that the decision was based on party affiliations.

He said: “The consultation process doesn’t end until Monday. The government is going to consider both the majority and minority views in deciding what to do next.”

A decision is expected in the autumn.