RTPI has helped to secure an amendment to a key provision of the Housing and Planning Bill. Last night, Baroness Williams of Telford (pictured, left), the ministerial lead on the legislation, agreed that the Bill should be changed to make it clearer what was meant by the 'qualifying documents' that would be used to grant permission in principle.
We argued for more clarity in order to prevent an Act of Parliament permitting any document created by the Secretary of State to grant a blanket permission across England.
We have campaigned actively on this issue, with meetings across the political parties in the House of Lords, to try to secure the change. We thank Lord Shipley, the Liberal Democrat peer, who put forward our case and our suggested amendment and Baroness Williams for listening to the arguments. Baroness Williams laid a government amendment which set out the qualifying documents that can grant permission in principle to local plans, registers and neighbourhood plans.
I agreed that I would reflect further on the need for an appropriate amendment that lists and limits the qualifying documents capable of granting permission in principle. I hope that the noble Lord will be pleased to see that the amendments achieve this by setting out the specific documents capable of granting permission in principle.
Baroness Williams said:
"The Government have been consistently clear that only documents that have been through robust processes such as consultation and site assessment will be capable of granting permission in principle and that these would therefore be limited to local plans, neighbourhood plans and new brownfield registers. During the debate on this measure in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, tabled an amendment that sought to specify these documents in the legislation, which he felt would be an improvement to the Bill."
"In the light of his comments, I agreed that I would reflect further on the need for an appropriate amendment that lists and limits the qualifying documents capable of granting permission in principle. I hope that the noble Lord will be pleased to see that the amendments achieve this by setting out the specific documents capable of granting permission in principle."
Lord Shipley, praising the RTPI said, said:
"My Lords, the Minister has kindly explained the changes which are to be made following the amendment that I moved in Committee. At that point I had the advice of the Royal Town Planning Institute, and I remain grateful for that. I am also grateful to the Minister for the changes that have been made, which seem to be entirely appropriate. I just want to express my thanks to the Minister for her willingness to clarify the matter."
The Bill is currently at Reports Stage continuing its passage through parliament. RTPI is working hard to secure other changes to the legislation, including on the proposals to allow 'alternative providers'. We have argued that if the government believes fee flexibility is part of the answer to increasing the resources of planning departments then they should also introduce parallel pilots allowing local authorities themselves to trial fee flexibility. One of the problems with the pilot scheme, as devised by ministers, is that after the pilots it would still be impossible to tease out whether it was fee flexibility or competition that had produced the results.
Read our latest House of Lords Bill briefing.
Read the debate from last night.
Read the RTPI response to DCLG's Technical consultation on the implementation of planning changes.