The Government has promised to look again at the wording of the clause in the Localism Bill on local finance considerations.
Government minister Lord Atlee acknowledged that there was widespread concern in and outside Parliament that clause 124 might give unfair weight to financial matters when planning authorities considered proposals for housing and the material considerations to be taken into account.
He told the Upper House: “there is merit in looking again at the wording to ensure that it does not inadvertently place local finance matters in any particular place in the pecking order of material considerations”.
During line by line scrutiny of the legislation by peers, Lord Atlee said that nothing in clause 124 challenged “the probity of the planning system. It does not change what can be material or how much weight to give to each material consideration. It does not give any particular level of weight to local finance considerations, nor does it require greater consideration to be given to local finance considerations than to any other material consideration. The discretion to determine the weight to be attached to each material consideration remains with the decision maker.”
He also said that the clause provided clarity “by amending Section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act to clarify that such considerations should be taken into account in relation to planning applications but only where they are material to the particular application being considered.
“This clause simply draws out local finance considerations as a potential subset of other material considerations.
The Bill has now completed its committee stage in the Lords but five and half days will be spent on its Report Stage when Parliament returns after its six-week summer recess.
During these deliberations peers were told that the Government remained open to the possibility of some form of community right of appeal.
Peers also learnt that the administration is revising the costs awards circular (circular 03/09) to make sure that it is clear that where a local planning authority refuses a development proposal on the grounds that it is contrary to an up-to-date development plan and there is no issue of conflict with national planning policy, there should be no grounds for an award of costs against the local planning authority.
21 July 2011