The British Property Federation (BPF) has welcomed an amendment in the Housing and Planning Bill that could relieve pressure on under-resourced local authorities by allowing external parties to process planning applications.
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis MP brought forward new clauses 43-46, to give the Secretary of State the power, by regulation, to introduce pilot schemes for competition in the processing of applications for planning permission in the Report stage of the Bill yesterday.
The amendment was added to the Bill, and will give the Secretary of State the power to transfer the processing of planning applications to a third party – which could be a private sector body or another local authority – whilst still allowing the local authority to determine the outcome of the application. The pilots will also see a flexible approach to charging introduced.
The BPF, alongside a number of other bodies, has repeatedly urged the Government to review resourcing of local authority planning departments, which is having a detrimental effect on development and the economic benefits that development brings, across the country.
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “This amendment has potential to be a real help to local authorities, who struggle with lack of planning department resources. Relieving local authorities from the administrative side of the planning application process will free up resources within departments, but still allows them to have the final say over development in their area. It is crucial that any changes are clear and transparent, to allow local communities to retain their confidence in the system.
“This amendment will only allow this idea to be piloted, so no policy has changed yet, but it seems like a step in the right direction. It is encouraging to see government engaging with this issue, which afflicts both developers and local authorities alike.”