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Bill briefing: Applications could be processed by 'alternative providers' rather than local planning authorities

04 January 2016

Housing Bill Banner

The Royal Town Planning Institute

1.         The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has over 23,000 members who work in the public private and voluntary sector. We develop and shape policy affecting the built environment, works to raise professional standards and supports members through continuous education, practice, training and development.

Applications could be processed by 'alternative providers' rather than local planning authorities

2.         The government tabled this amendment just before the Christmas recess without notice. As drafted, it has some potentially complex and wide ranging consequences. In particular it is very unclear to the Institute what problem this provision is trying to solve? 

Key unanswered questions:

3.         Is it performance by planning officers as distinct from planning authorities? What evidence is there that it is delays in making recommendations that holds up planning applications, as opposed to delays after recommendations have been made? Is there evidence we have not seen that recommendations are held up by planning officers as opposed to other reasons for delay such as consultees and applicants themselves? Our own ARUP commissioned research revealed that many LPAs are kept going on the professional integrity and good will of the their staff. How will this relate to the performance regime in place for taking action where authorities are slow?

4.         Or is the problem being addressed the lack of resources in planning departments and DCLG’s apparent inability to require LPAs to resource to the level required. As drafted, it seems regulations are proposed which would enable (different?) fees to be charged for designated persons’ work. It would surely be difficult to argue that sufficient fees should only be available to alternative providers, and not all providers. The issue of what part of a fee is retained by the LPA for its part of the determination work is another potential complexity and challenge. The RTPI is very concerned about any additional unfunded work exacerbating the resource and delivery challenge the system is placing on LPAs.

Other issues of concern:

5.            What qualifications should an alternative provider have?

“The regulations may make provision about eligibility to act as a designated person.” Clearly, the RTPI provides professional standards for town planners. How will the requirement to be fully cognizant of an area be allowed for in the eligibility criteria?

6.            What should be taken into account?

The phrase “The regulations may make provision about the matters to be considered by designated persons” is interesting when Parliament has already indicated what matters should be considered namely the development plan and other material considerations. We are unclear therefore why a regulation is needed therefore in relation to matters to be considered?

Contact the RTPI

7.       If you require more detailed information please contact the RTPI.

Tino Hernandez

Head of Communications and Public Affairs

T.         020 7929 9486 M.     07711 593495

Tino.hernandez@rtpi.org.uk