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Lewis launches local plan panel to speed up development

Words: Laura Edgar

Housing minister Brandon Lewis has set up a panel to help “streamline” the local plan-making process.

The panel of eight will, the government says, consider how the process can be simplified with the aim of reducing the time it takes for local authorities to get plans in place.

This follows an announcement in July that local councils will have until “early 2017” to produce a local plan or the government will intervene.

The members of the panel are:

* Chair John Rhodes of planning consultants Quod
* Adrian Penfold from developers British Land
* Richard Harwood QC from legal firm 39 Essex Chambers
* Councillor Toby Elliott from Swindon Borough Council
* Keith Holland, a retired Senior Planning Inspector
* Liz Peace, formerly of the British Property Federation
* John Howell MP, member for Henley
* Derek Stebbing, Local Authority Plans Manager for Chelmsford City Council

The move aims to provide greater certainty to communities on plans for new homes and infrastructure in their area, while speeding up the process to get developers on site quicker, the government said.

Lewis explained that while some communities have “seized the opportunity” of bringing forward developments that are a “real benefit to local people”, getting local plans in place can be “lengthy and complicated”.

“That’s why we’ve brought together this panel of experts to help look at ways to streamline the process. Their first-class advice will help councils push on and deliver the homes and infrastructure that their communities need,” the minister said.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, has welcomed the formation of the panel, with both the private and public sector represented.

“We would like to see the group think more broadly than the provisions laid out in the Productivity Plan, and to make sure that it is possible for local authorities to produce simple, straightforward plans that are conducive to the speedy delivery of new homes and places," Leech said.