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  6. New planning policies for school development

New planning policies for school development

Planning measures to support the expansion of state schools and the creation of new free schools have been introduced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. 

Ministers said they were determined to change the current system, viewed by many as an obstacle to good schools with long waiting lists being able to expand.

A new planning statement, in line with the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), sets out the principles which councils should follow when considering proposals for the creation or development of free and other state-funded schools.

The SoS said the measures should allay public concerns that some councils could have a conflict of interest as a local planning authority and a local education authority, or could try to use the planning system to stop new free schools opening.

The guidance makes it clear that councils should work positively with communities from an early stage to identify suitable sites and prepare strong planning applications.

Mr Pickles said: "Councils need to do more to support the expansion of popular schools, so that school waiting lists are not a barrier to greater equality of opportunity. We also need to avoid councils covertly seeking to use planning red tape to stop the healthy competition of new free schools. These measures will help improve local schooling to the benefit of local communities."

The new planning policy stresses that there should be a presumption in favour of the development of state-funded schools including free schools. The guidance also urged councils to make full use of their planning powers to support free school applications. This should include engaging in pre-application discussions with promoters and, where necessary, using planning obligations to help deliver development that has a positive impact on the community.

Planning authorities will be expected to justify clearly any refusal for a free and other state-funded school or any conditions imposed. They will also be required to ensure that a streamlined system for submitting and determining school applications is in place.

In addition the administration wants appeals against refusals of planning permission for state-funded schools to be treated as a priority

Ministers have made it clear they will continue to explore whether there is further scope and need for the planning system to do more to support state-funded schools, and in particular free schools, in the future.

Read the DCLG press notice and access the planning statement.


Roger Milne

18 August 2011