Government seeks power to direct joint plan-making

New powers to allow the secretary of state to give a direction requiring two or more town halls to prepare a joint local plan and to invite a county council to prepare a local plan where a district council in its area has failed to do so are contained in government amendments to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.

Parliament: Bill is at committee stage in House of Commons
Parliament: Bill is at committee stage in House of Commons

A series of new amendments to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which is currently at committee stage, have been tabled by the planning minister Gavin Barwell.

One new clause tabled by the minister would allow the secretary of state to "give a direction requiring two or more local planning authorities to prepare a joint development plan document", according to an explanatory statement.

Another new clause tabled by Barwell would "enable the secretary of state to invite a county council to prepare or revise a development plan document in a case where the secretary of state thinks that a district council in the county council’s area is failing to prepare, revise or adopt such a document".

Barwell told the MIPIM UK property trade show in London today that the provisions were "not powers that I anticipate using a lot but I think their existence will focus minds and ensure that we get plans in place".

A further amendment tabled by the minister would require a local planning authority to "identify the strategic priorities for development and use of land in the authority’s area and to set out policies to address these in their development plan documents".

Barwell said that the amendment is "confirming there’s a statutory duty to have local plans in place".

"We’ve worded it flexibly so it doesn’t necessarily say that each of you as a local planning authority has to have your own local plan – if Greater Manchester created a local plan for the 11 districts there, that counts – so can work with other people or you can work alone, it’s up to you," he said.

Further government amendments would:

- enable the secretary of state to set data standards for local development schemes and documents, "requiring these documents or the data they contain to comply with specified technical specifications"

- enable regulations to require a local planning authority to review local development documents at prescribed times

Speaking earlier this month, communities secretary Sajid Javid said that the Neighbourhood Planning 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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