The odd dropping of the Statutory Requirement for Public Participation on Development Plans

The Levelling up committee has written to Gove following a legal opinion which found ‘the Bill radically centralises planning decision-making and substantially erodes public participation in the planning system’

Apart from the obvious that the bill introduces statutory national development management policies I find little in the former assertion, overall the bill is just codification and introduction of language more aligned with terms used in national policy (like local plan). But the latter assertion is correct.

The bill completely swaps out the sections of the PCPA2004 relating to development plans. This includes section 18 on Statements of Community Involvement.

This was always a curious beast. It replaced a statutory duty to consult on development plans in the 1990 act (details in regulations), compliance with an SCI was a test of lawfulness of the plan (through spectacularly complicated wording in that it isn’t a DPD).

It had a curious history as Lord Falconer was lobbied over the 2004 act by various lobby groups who wanted planning to be more ‘people led’. At the meeting the SCI was cooked up, with independent examinations, which proved a spectacular waste of time as for the first two years after 2004 LPAs spent all their time on SCI examinations rather than plans. The requirement for SCIs was soon dropped.

I can only assume that the intention was to drop the requirement for SCIs but in a drafting error they dropped altogether the requirement to consult on local plans. Actually there is strictly no need for this. The requirement to consult on planning applications is not in the 1990 Act but the GDPO. The new local plan regs could do the same. Nethertheless it would do no harm to frame a clause with the same scope as sections 39-41 of the TCPA1990 which the 2004 act replaced.

E.G

(1)A local planning authority who propose to make, alter, repeal or replace a local plan shall proceed in accordance with this section…

(2)They shall take such steps as will in their opinion secure—

(a)that adequate publicity is given to the proposals in the area to which the plan relates;

(b)that persons who may be expected to wish to make representations about the proposals are made aware that they are entitled to do so; and

(c)that such persons are given an adequate opportunity of making such representations….

Overall this seems more like drafting cock up than centralising conspiracy. There is a statutory requirement for consultation in the new SDS section.