Controversial clause in Localism Bill voted through by MPs but ministers fear battle in the Lords

The government has called for planning and environmental campaigners to come forward with evidence to support objections to the so-called “cash for planning” clause in the Localism Bill.

The controversial clause 15 amendment to the bill, designed to support the introduction of financial incentives to councils that allow more homes to be built, was voted through by MPs last week. This was despite Alison Seabeck, Labour housing spokesperson, accusing the government of trying to “buy planning permissions.”

Ministers are now thought to be preparing for a battle on the subject in the House of Lords, and have signalled their willingness to tweak the amendment after hearing the arguments of planners and environmental campaigners.

The clause explicitly states that councils are allowed to view cash payments from the government or developers as a “material consideration” in deciding a planning application, thereby shielding the New Homes Bonus from potential legal challenge.

Ministers say the clause is intended to simply make the status quo explicit, but some planners say it potentially means that cash payments could trump all other considerations.

A spokesperson for the Town and Country Planning Association, which has said the move “undermines” the planning system, said: “We do not think the clause can be tweaked, it needs to be taken out.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England, which has also complained about the move, is still considering whether to launch a legal challenge over the New Homes Bonus, amid growing concern from environmental groups about pro-development elements to the bill.

Michael Chambers, associate director at the British Property Federation, said: “We’re going to get a legal view to reply to the government - they’ve asked organisations to come back with their view on whether this clause changes the status quo.”