In a briefing to members of the House of Lords, in advance of the Second Reading of the Localism Bill next week, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has highlighted three key issues that still need to be resolved to make the legislation more effective and it has urged Ministers to think again about the introduction of controversial new Clause 124. The RTPI is also highlighting several other ways in which the Bill could be improved.
Peers are being asked to back demands that the Government withdraw controversial Clause 124 which seeks to make 'local finance considerations' a material consideration when determining a planning application. Giving undue prominence to financial considerations as a material consideration in statute contravenes the fundamental principle that planning permission may not be bought or sold, or that there is any perception that this is happening. Such a change will also inevitably lead to challenges of legal interpretation thereby resulting in greater uncertainty, not least for investors.
Royal Town Planning Institute President (RTPI), Richard Summers said:
\"We hope the Government takes the opportunity to make further improvements to the Localism Bill in the Lords. The very late tabling of an amendment to require a local planning authority to make local finance considerations a material consideration in planning decisions has caused widespread concern and is set to dominate the debate. We are arguing very strongly for controversial Clause 124 to be withdrawn as a planning application should be determined on its merits. The proposed change will only increase public suspicion and cynicism about the planning process\".
The briefing argues that two further key issues need to be addressed in the Lords and puts forward possible solutions: neighbourhood planning arrangements are still far too complex and need to be simplified, and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should be embodied in statute and put on the face of the Bill.
The RTPI also has several other suggestions to improve various aspects of the Bill. They include the provisions for local planning, pre-application consultation and enforcement. Some of the others such as pre-determination, the right to challenge, community assets and referendums, which are not in the 'planning' sections of the Bill, could have an adverse impact on effective planning.
The RTPI's Bill briefing documents can be found on our Parliamentary briefing pages.