Planning magazine reports that a new duty on planning officers to list details of the financial benefits likely to arise from development proposals may not have the intended effect of increasing local support for development and could leave councils vulnerable to legal challenges.
Mike Kiely, Chair of the Board at the Planning Officers Society, told the Planning reporter that he is concerned by the consultation's proposal that local finance considerations should be cited in planning committee reports "even where they are not material to the decision". "I think that's really odd," Kiely said. "If it's not a material consideration then what is it doing in the report? If it's not material it means you shouldn't consider it."
Kiely warns that the wording around this aspect of the bill will have to be drafted with great care, to avoid leaving councils vulnerable to legal challenges. "If they're not careful in the way they draft this, it could be very easy for someone to come up with a relatively obscure, barely related or unrelated financial consideration, accuse the council of failing to have cited it and it's off to the planning court for a judicial review on a technicality. We really must avoid that."
However, Kiely added that if this issue is dealt with appropriately, the practical implications of the duty on planning officers could be marginal. "It will be extra work because they will have to write something in a very specific way, but it will be small in the scheme of things," he said.