Labour MPs bid to derail plan to limit use of conditions

Labour MPs are seeking to block Neighbourhood Planning Bill provisions that would prohibit pre-commencement conditions from being imposed without the prior written agreement of the applicant.

Parliament: Bill's committee stage begins this week
Parliament: Bill's committee stage begins this week

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill, published last month, fleshes out the details of government plans to ensure that pre-commencement conditions are only imposed by councils where they are absolutely necessary.

A consultation published alongside the bill says that, while conditions can help to achieve sustainable development, ministers are concerned that "too many overly restrictive and unnecessary conditions are routinely attached" to permissions.

An amendment, tabled by Labour MPs Roberta Blackman-Woods, Teresa Pearce and Jim McMahon ahead of the bill’s committee stage this week, would remove a subsection of the bill that stipulates that permission cannot be granted subject to a pre-commencement condition without the written agreement of the applicant to the terms of the condition.

An explanatory statement said that the amendment would "ensure that local authorities are still able to make necessary pre-commencement conditions on developers".

A further Labour amendment would require that "all councils should have a local development plan in place by December 2017".

An explanatory statement said that the amendment would ensure that local plans are in place "so neighbourhood plans can be made in line with the strategic aims of local plans".

Further amendments tabled by the Labour MPs would allow local authorities to recover the full costs of assisting with the development of a neighbourhood plan and would give weight to neighbourhood plans at "key stages along the process and not just at the post-referendum stage".

Speaking last week during the bill’s second reading, communities secretary Sajid Javid said that the bill will be used as the vehicle to introduce the recommendations of a task force set up by ministers to look at ways to speed up the local plan process.

Javid told MPs that he agrees with the "central thrust" of recommendations in the government's Local Plans Expert Group's report related to strengthening cross-boundary cooperation and making local plans a statutory requirement.

Javid said that, should primary legislation be required to introduce the recommendations, he will look to use the Neighbourhood Planning Bill "as the vehicle for it".

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