A new Growth & Infrastructure Bill has been laid before Parliament today that includes five specific planning measures on which we would like to comment, said Society Spokesperson John Silvester. "Generally we welcome any initiative to boost the economy provided it has no adverse impact on issues of acknowledged planning importance."
- the introduction of performance measuring powers to enable developers to take an application direct to PINS where the authority is a poor performer.
- John Silvester said "We do not defend poor performers, but it is clear the problem is not widespread." Society President Malcolm Sharp added "most councils are doing a good job and the Society would support the few that appear to have problems."
- giving Inspectors new powers of discretion to consider an award of costs even where there has been no claim for an award.
- Silvester commented "There is no excuse for unreasonable behaviour so it seems appropriate that Inspectors should be able to impose a penalty on those that demonstrate it."
- enabling a right of appeal against a s106 agreement for affordable housing provision; to be enacted immediately on the Bill obtaining Royal Assent. Supplementary guidiance is to be issued regarding viability issues.
- Sharp indicated that "a number of authorities are already renegotiating s106 agreements on a voluntary basis" and Silvester remarked that this provision seemed odd "where two parties had entered willingly into an agreeement in the first place."
- new categories of major infrastructure to be defined so that developers can apply direct to PINS.
- Sharp suggested it was "difficult to comment before the consultation was issued; however, there is no evidence to suggest going down the major infrastructure route with PINS would be any quicker than applying to the local authority given that over 90% of applications are being determined within target." Silvester queried "this will undoubtedly impact on the PINS workload and thus they will need additional resources; it have been preferable to provide more resources direct to LPAs, such as through local fee setting."
- Silvester later added "This could result in a significant loss of fee income for some authorities, and it may be PINS will not have the experienced staff that the authorities have; furthermore it could take away the opportunity for newer staff to gain experience on such schemes." He then suggested "I wonder how many developers will take the gamble and apply direct to PINS and lose their right of appeal?"
- introduction of some of the Penfold Review suggestions, such as highway stopping up measures and town & village green provisions.
- Sharp said "we welcome getting rid of more red tape which is why we have already made representations for further efficiencies to the system."
See also the LGA press release on the Bill