Boles: PINS shortcut may not be quicker

Decisions on major business applications submitted directly to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) under new reforms may not be any speedier than those taken by local authorities, the planning minister has admitted.

Boles: a local authority will often be the fastest route
Boles: a local authority will often be the fastest route

Under plans set out in the Bill, developers planning major business and commercial developments would be able to submit applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) for a decision under the Planning Act 2008.

The government estimates that between ten and 20 large-scale commercial and industrial projects are likely to be referred each year to PINS under the measure.

Speaking yesterday during a Growth and Infrastructure Bill committee session, Nick Boles said that projects referred to PINS under the proposed legislation may not be determined any quicker than if they had been handled by a local authority.

Responding to a set of amendments on the clause tabled by shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods, Boles said: "The hon. Lady asks whether we can be certain that this route will be faster than the alternative, and the answer is no."

He said: "The point is that a local authority will often be the fastest route."

But Boles added that the national infrastructure route would be "more predictable because it will be timetabled".

He said: "A scheme’s promoter would have to be seriously concerned about the prospects of the scheme being handled properly through the local authority route to want to go down the Planning Inspectorate route."

Boles added: "We are trying to create opportunities, so that applicants and developers have an alternative route when they encounter obstacles, delay or unreasonable behaviour."

Boles also reiterated the government’s view that national policy statements (NPSs) should not be prepared for the new category of business and commercial development.

NPSs provide the framework within which inspectors make their recommendations for decisions to the relevant secretary of state.

Boles said: "We are far from persuaded of the case for national policy statements for two reasons. One is that we would have to do so many, because business and commercial covers so many categories.

"The other … is that, by definition, those national policy statements would tend to undercut the NPPF and the NPPF’s weight in local plans."

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