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04/04/2014

MPs announce inquiry into National Planning Policy Framework

Words: Huw Morris
Clive Betts

Government planning performance targets may be "driving perverse behaviour" by local authorities, MPs said today.

The Commons Communities and Local Government Committee today launched an inquiry into the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) after publishing research that some planning authorities may be meeting government performance targets despite being ineffective and displaying poor practice.
 
"A number of local authorities are exemplary according to the performance date but described as 'horrendous' by those with first-hand experience of working with them," said committee chair Clive Betts. "Some are even rejecting planning applications and asking developers to resubmit the same application for no reason other than to meet the target time for a decision."
 
The nature of planning constraints, compiled by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, found that measuring performance by the number of decisions taken within eight or 13 weeks from the start of the formal process masks good and bad performance. The actual time taken to reach a planning consent is not necessarily reflected in the target statistics as in some authorities a lot of time is spent before the formal process begins.
 
It said the lack of a local plan in some authorities has led to an expectation that applications will go to appeal because elected members do not want to make planning decisions, or nimbyism in relation to new development is strong. However, the planning process can be effective when there is a positive culture within local authorities and a pro-development attitude from chief executives, planning officers and members.
 
Large house builders think the NPPF has been a positive change but oppose further changes in policy, the research revealed.
 

“It is extremely concerning that efficient authorities, which focus on customer service and enabling good development, could be placed in special measures."

 
Betts added: “It is extremely concerning that efficient authorities, which focus on customer service and enabling good development, could be placed in special measures because they miss arbitrary and unsatisfactory targets. On the other hand, poor authorities that game the system are being applauded for meeting those same targets.
 
“The evidence from the research suggests that government proposals to increase the threshold for designating authorities as under-performing may only make matters worse."
 
The Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry will look at the impact of the NPPF on planning for housing, town centres and energy infrastructure.
 

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