Boles: no right of appeal in 'special measures' council areas

Planning minister Nick Boles last night revealed that there will be no right of appeal against decisions made by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of councils in special measures.

Boles: confirmed more details about special measures councils
Boles: confirmed more details about special measures councils

Last month, the government announced that developers would have the option of lodging planning applications directly with the inspectorate if planning departments had been judged to be missing decision targets.

And Boles, speaking last night before the communities and local government select committee, said that there would be no right of appeal against the decisions made by the inspectorate.

He said: "There won’t be an appeal process. The whole point that this intended to be a temporary exceptional route and of course there is always an appeal process by going to court.

"This is a last resort while we make the authority take the steps it needs to do to become a proper planning authority."

Committee chairman Clive Betts suggested that this would be removing a fundamental principle of the planning system – the right of an applicant to appeal against decisions.

But Boles responded: "It is going to happen in a small amount of authorities for a small amount of time – a year maximum.

"It is going to be something that is a reflection of those authorities’ failure to discharge their responsiblities. Localism does not mean local authorities doing what the hell they like."

The minister added that councils would be judged by an "objective measure" based on the speed of planning decisions, and the proportion of decisions which are overturned at appeal.

But he pledged that there would be a mechanism to ensure that councils which had planning performance agreements agreeing longer timeframes would not be caught by the thresholds.

Boles said the government was trying to create thresholds which "don't catch too many councils but sends out a message". He said: "We are going to make it painful to become a long-term laggard."

He said that councils would still undertake the administrative parts of the planning application process, such as notifying nearby residents as well as carrying out consultations.

But the Planning Inspectorate would decide the planning application and receive the applicant’s planning fee, he said.

Boles also said that he would introduce a measure to automatically award costs to developers.

At the moment, developers have to request the award of costs from councils if their appeal is successful, and Boles said that some developers are reluctant to do take up the option because they have other development interests in local authority areas.


Boles also set out for the first time the types of business and commercial development that could be classed as major infrastructure following the proposal to fast-track such projects unveiled in last month's reforms.
The nationally significant infrastructure planning process, which currently covers projects such as nuclear power stations, major wind schemes, road and rail projects, would be extended for business and commercial development "of a significant scale", Boles said.
He said this would cover "big business and science parks, research and development facilities, storage and distribution centres, minerals extraction, major industrial developments like oil refineries, big chemical works and major manufacturing plants".
He said he did not believe there would need to be a national policy statement for each of these but a clear set of criteria would be drawn up to guide such development.

"We are talking to other departments on what should be included and how the criteria should be defined," he said.
Housing schemes would not be brought under the major infrastructure regime, but the secretary of state would look at using call in powers more often for housing developments if they have "more than purely local significance", Boles said.
He added that he had a meeting a few weeks ago with a local authority on a very major residential scheme where the council was saying the scheme was so large it was going to completely overwhelm the planning department because "it is the sort of scheme they might deal with only every 20 years".
Boles said: "No authority is going to staff up permanently for that coming along. It is right that those schemes are not delayed just because local authorities are not able to deal with them expeditiously."

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