Fear of breaking guidelines results in ill-informed planning decisions, claim developers

The government will look again at the rules guiding the lobbying of councillors by developers before planning applications.

Richard McCarthy, director general of sustainable communities at the communities department, said the government needed to “do some work” to ensure it was possible to have proper engagement in advance of application decisions.

Planners and developers speaking at the launch of a planning manifesto on Tuesday by the British Property Federation said many councillors were making ill-informed or incorrect decisions about planning applications because they believed they were not allowed to meet with the developers before making them. Some lawyers have been advising councillors that meeting developers may breach the Nolan rules for standards in public life.

McCarthy said: “There must be consistency on the advice that lawyers are giving to councillors.”

We should be able to have a briefing with members under proper rules of probity

Sue Wilcox, BPF

However, McCarthy could not say what action the government might take on the issue. In March the communities department launched a review of the planning system to consider how to improve the process.

Sue Wilcox, BPF planning committee chair and head of planning at Sainsbury’s, said she knew of planners turning down developments with widespread local support simply because they didn’t have enough information about them. “We should be able to have a briefing with members under proper rules of probity,” she said.

Nigel Hawkey, head of planning at developer Quintain, said: “For every local authority willing to discuss an application, there’s one that won’t even meet you.”