Councils that often lose at appeal will be stripped of powers

With the planning minister saying developers will be able to sidestep councils making unsound decisions, figures show which town halls are at risk, says Susanna Millar.

The few English councils whose planning decisions are consistently overturned on appeal will be subject to special measures allowing developers to bypass their planning departments, the planning minister has said.

Nick Boles made the comments at the Conservative Party conference and at a communities and local government select committee meeting this week. He told the committee that councils would be judged by an "objective measure" based on the speed of planning decisions and the proportion overturned at appeal.

The proposal to allow the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) to decide applications where councils have a track record of poor performance was among reforms unveiled last month.

Until now, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had said only that the measure would apply where "the local authority has a track record of consistently poor performance in the speed or quality of its decisions".

Earlier this month, Planning revealed that the DCLG is working with planning professionals to establish how councils will be judged after the department released a report on how often they decide applications within 26 weeks (Planning, 5 October, p4).

Boles also revealed to the committee at that there will be no right of appeal against decisions made by PlNS on behalf of councils in special measures. Special measures would be a "temporary exceptional route" that would happen in a small amount of authorities for maximum of a year, according to the minister.

"This is a last resort while we make the authority take the steps it needs to do to become a proper planning authority," he said. Official Planning Inspectorate data shows that 43 councils had decisions overturned on at least half of their appeals in 2011/12.

The Planning Officers Society said that, where councils' decisions are being consistently overturned, this may be due to members ignoring officers' recommendations or using non-planning reasons for rejection.

Spokesman John Silvester said: "Planning officers should remind their members to always act reasonably and only cite valid planning reasons in determining applications or accept the consequences."

A Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) spokesman said that planning relies on various factors, such as good applications and timely responses on applications from third parties.

"Deficiencies in any of these may result in a drop in performance - whether measured by time taken or quality of decisions," he said. "The RTPI is keen to see that if any council is judged to be underperforming, targeted support will enable a return of decision-making to local democratic control as quickly as possible."

Some councils have also criticised the DCLG monitoring report for failing to present a fair picture.

The Council of the Isles of Scilly was listed bottom of the table for no major applications decided in 26 weeks, but did not receive any such applications.

Torbay Council, which was the second lowest scorer on the table, and the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, which came third, have said delays were caused by negotiating complex section 106 planning gain deals for major projects.

 

25 MOST OVERRULED DECISION-MAKERS

The English authorities who suffered the highest proportion of defeats
in planning appeals in 2011/12 (including political leadership). Minimum
five appeals. Source: PINS

% appeals Local Political Appeals
allowed authority control allowed

78 Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council Lab 7
75 Middlesbrough Council Lab+Ind 6
70 Nottingham City Council Lab 7
70 Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council Lab 7
69 Cheltenham Borough Council LD 9
67 Hartlepool Borough Council Lab 6
67 Ribble Valley Borough Council Con 9
62 Eastleigh Borough Council LD 8
62 Wyre Forest District Council NOC 8
61 Bracknell Forest Borough Council Con 14
60 Redditch Borough Council Lab 6
58 Manchester City Council Lab 29
58 South Tyneside Council Lab 7
57 Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Con 15
57 Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council Lab 7
57 Stoke-on-Trent City Council Lab 13
56 Hastings Borough Council Lab 9
56 Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council Lab 8
55 Ashford Borough Council Con 17
55 Charnwood Borough Council Con 18
55 Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council Lab 6
54 Mansfield District Council Ind+Lab 7
52 Daventry District Council Con 13
52 Maldon District Council Con 13
50 Salford City Council Lab 12


SLOWEST DECISION-MAKERS (ALL APPLICATIONS)

25 lowest scoring English councils for determining all applications
within 26 weeks in 2011/12. Source: DCLG

Local Political Decided in 26 weeks
authority control (number) (%)

Stratford-on-Avon Con 1,663 89
Stafford Con 992 89
Warwick Con 1,090 91
Ribble Valley Con 702 91
Kirklees NOC 2,474 92
Lancaster Lab+Grn 783 92
North West Leicestershire Con 601 93
Shropshire Con 3,174 93
Cambridge NOC 1,103 93
North East Derbyshire Lab 644 93
Redbridge Con+LD 2,289 93
Barrow-in-Furness Lab 367 93
Islington Lab 1,978 93
Halton Lab 387 93
Eastleigh LD 735 94
Preston Lab 703 94
Purbeck NOC 616 94
Gosport Con 326 94
Winchester Con 1,772 94
Ashfield Lab 536 94
Cheshire East Con 3,160 94
Hackney Lab 1,620 94
North Devon LD+Ind 1,165 94
Torbay Con 1,071 94
Northumberland LD 2,587 94
(minority)


SLOWEST DECISION-MAKERS (MAJOR APPLICATIONS)

25 lowest scoring English authorities for determining major applications
within 26 weeks in 2011/12 (minimum five major applications decided).
Source: DCLG

Local Political Decided in 26 weeks
authority control (number) (%)

Torbay Con 11 31
Kensington & Chelsea Con 8 33
North Norfolk Con 8 42
Warwick Con 11 44
Ashfield Lab 13 45
Hounslow Lab 29 45
Havant Con 7 47
Redbridge Con+LD 18 49
Hartlepool Lab 5 50
South Norfolk Con 17 50
Darlington Lab 6 50
Brentwood Con 7 50
Fylde Con 14 52
Ribble Valley Con 11 52
Canterbury Con 14 54
Wellingborough Con 7 54
South Hams Con 6 55
Ryedale Con 10 56
Blaby Con 10 56
Cambridge NOC 18 56
Richmond upon Thames Con 9 56
Gravesham Lab 8 57
Winchester Con 35 57
Stratford-on-Avon Con 31 57
New Forest Con 15 58


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