Boles: councils could be judged on major application performance

The government has said that the proportion of major applications determined on time over a two-year period could be a metric used to decide which councils are placed in special measures allowing developers to bypass their planning departments.

Boles: ministers would like to apologise to Hackney for 'oversight'
Boles: ministers would like to apologise to Hackney for 'oversight'
Planning minister Nick Boles said in a written ministerial answer yesterday that the proportion of major applications determined on time between March 2010 and March 2012 would be "one such metric that ministers will be considering" as part of a consultation on which measures should be used to determine which councils are stripped of planning powers.

A clause in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, published last month, would allow applications to be made directly to the Planning Inspectorate if councils have a poor record in the speed of decisions or the proportion of applications overturned on appeal.

Boles was explaining why communities secretary Eric Pickles had described Haringey as the "worst" planning authority in England.

Earlier this week Pickles claimed that the London Borough of Hackney was the worst performing local planning authority. However, following a complaint from Hackney, Pickles then retracted the claim saying he had meant to name Haringey.

In his answer, Boles said that ministers would like to "apologise" to Hackney for the oversight.

He added: "Haringey has the worst performance for deciding major planning applications in England over the last two years (March 2010 to March 2012), with only 17 per cent of major applications determined on time."

A spokeswoman for the London Borough of Haringey said: "The council dealt with 3,590 planning decisions in this two-year period, April 2010 to March 2012. The vast majority of these applications were dealt with within deadline.

"The 30 major applications made during this period took longer than normal to deal with, due to their complexity and many relating to major regeneration and to riot damaged sites. Of those 30 major planning applications 29 were given approval."

In a separate parliamentary question tabled before Pickles’ correction of his claim that Hackney was the worst performing council, shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn asked the communities secretary "what advice he received from (a) his officials and (b) the Planning Inspectorate before naming Hackney as the worst planning authority" and "on what basis he determined that Hackney is the worst planning authority".

In reply, Boles said: "The government intends to consult shortly on its proposed approach to working with the very worst performing local planning authorities to improve the service they offer to applicants and local residents. This will include consulting on the precise criteria to use when identifying the worst performers, as well as taking into account locally-agreed Planning Performance Agreements.

"Planning is an administrative process involving quasi-judicial decisions, and it is unfair for state bodies to fail to follow minimum standards of due process when regulating and restricting private property rights."

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