Planning inspectors’ powers over Local Plan examinations restored

Thrings development of land planning inspectors powers

Local authorities without up-to-date Local Plans stand to have a weaker case for refusing planning positions following a recent instruction from the Chief Planner to the Planning Inspectorate.

The decision to return Inspectors’ freedoms to deem Local Plans unsound, as well as to advise whether they should be withdrawn, was made public in a letter by Chief Planner Joanna Averley to Paul Morrison, Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate this month.

This follows an instruction from the then Secretary of State to the Inspectorate in July last year to not make any such conclusions, a temporary measure during a “period of transition” whilst the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was progressing through Parliament and the Government developed a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) prospectus to further detail their approach and ambitions towards the planning system.

Through the letter the previous instruction has been removed with the Chief Planner making it clear that inspectors are expected to continue focusing on addressing shortcomings to help ensure plans are adopted and kept up-to-date.

Ros Trotman, Head of Development of Land, said: “We anticipated that the Government would look to reintroduce these responsibilities to planning inspectors, with the onus very much now on local authorities to ensure their Local Plans are progressed and fit for use. It will be interesting to see if there is an increase in emerging local plans being considered unsound as a result of this change in approach.

“For housebuilders and promoters, this will be of interest as those local authorities whose plans are not up-to-date, and where emerging plans are held to be unsound, will find themselves disadvantaged when attempting to oppose applications in their areas. Even though this could potentially play into the favour of developers, positive encouragement with local councils continues to be an effective strategy when bringing forward proposals.”

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