Barwell pledges limited use of local plan intervention powers

Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell has said he will only intervene in local plans in instances where they raise issues of 'more than local significance' or where they relate to how national planning policy 'is working on the ground'.

Gavin Barwell: housing and planning minister
Gavin Barwell: housing and planning minister

Speaking to Planning this morning at the MIPIM UK property conference in London, Barwell refused to answer questions directly related to his decision last week to issue a holding notice on Bradford City Council’s local plan, effectively preventing the council from adopting the document.

Asked about his position on intervening on local plans more generally, Barwell said that his "presumption is in favour of the locally-led system".

"I think you don’t want a situation where ministers are taking decisions on large numbers of planning applications or intervening in every single local plan, but I do think there are bound to be occasions where an individual application or a particular local plan raises issues that have more than local significance and that are about how national policy is working on the ground and I think on those occasions, ministers are going to have a look", he said.

Speaking at a session earlier this morning, Barwell also said that the duty to cooperate "has not worked well enough in certain parts of the country and that does need addressing".

The minister announced that the government had tabled a number of amendments to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill which would introduce a series of recommendations in the Local Plan Expert Group's report.

He said they would give him the "power to intervene and mandate councils to work together and create a plan for the area".

The minister added that there were "other things in that report that we are interested but they don’t require legislative change".

Speaking on the impending Housing White Paper, announced by the government last month, Barwell said he could not give any details as to the content of the document.

However, he did say that one of the "consistent things that people have said to me is the importance of policy certainty".

He said the idea of having a white paper was to avoid "a few initiatives, a bit of legislation" and try and "set out an overall strategy that everyone can comment on about how we’re going to meet the Prime Minister’s ambition to get the country building more homes … then have an implementation phase where, rather than constantly tinker with the overall strategy, we are working with individual communities to unblock the issues that they face."

Barwell also said that there will be a section in the white paper on design quality and he said that there was "lot of detail to come" on the future of the Starter Homes initiative. However, he stressed that Starter Homes would still go ahead.

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