The government has pulled back from giving communities the right to appeal all planning permissions as part of its radical overhaul of the planning system this week
As expected, the Localism and Decentralisation Bill proposes the abolition of the regional tier of the planning system, including housing targets, and new powers for neighbourhoods to decide the future development of their area.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles described the Bill as starting a “new era of people power”. However, the Tory party’s pre-election pledges to give “third-party rights of appeal” to people living near planned developments, and to limit the rights of developers to appeal refusals, do not appear.
It is a huge relief not see third party rights of appeal or curtailing of the general rights of appeal
Claire Fallows, Hogan Lovells
The Bill also failed to include the widely trailed “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, which had been promoted by ministers as a way to counter nimbyism.
The planning reforms outlined in the Bill are just part of an enormous 400-page document.
Its other provisions include the handing over of some government powers to local authorities and elected mayors, and a shake-up of social housing allocation.
Claire Fallows, of counsel at law firm Hogan Lovells, said the industry was “keeping its fingers crossed” that the omission of planning appeal reform was not just temporary.
“It is a huge relief not to see the inclusion of third party rights of appeal or the curtailing of the general right of appeal,” she said.
“Third party rights of appeal would have been an unwelcome addition to the armoury of those determined to frustrate acceptable development by fighting to the last.”
The development sector also welcomed the proposed relaxation of rules that prevent councillors discussing plans with developers before planning decisions are made.
However Andrew Whitaker, director of planning at the Home Builders’ Federation, was concerned about some of the omissions.
He said: “There’s no presumption in favour of development - that should be in there to help balance the abolition of targets. We’re also concerned that some things - like not being able to appeal a retrospective planning application - have come in after no discussion whatsoever.”
Localism bill summary
- Abolition of regional plans and housing targets
- New powers for neighbourhoods to determine future development, including a “right to build” where 50% of people support it
- No introduction of third party planning appeals
- No presumption in favour of sustainable development
- Repair and maintenance of social housing to be paid for by locally collected rents
- Regulation of social housing to transfer to the Homes and Communities Agency
- Mayor of London to be given powers to set up development corporations
- Housing and regeneration bodies to be combined in one organisation under the mayor
- Communities to be given greater rights to challenge council decisions, and to buy and run council-owned assets