Fine councils for failing to update Local Plans, says CLA

Landowners' organisation says out-to-date planning legislation can block the progress of important rural development

Dorothy Fairburn, CLA North regional director
Dorothy Fairburn, CLA North regional director

The CLA in the North is supporting a group of MPs suggesting local councils should be fined if they obstruct sensible development by failing to deliver a Local Plan.

As part of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was introduced in April 2012 to boost economic development, every local authority was told to have a Local Plan in place within three years, setting out how to best meet the development needs of the local area.

Now, as the deadline approaches, a select committee of MPs has found that some 41% of councils, many of which are rural planning authorities, still do not have an up-to-date plan in place.

According to Planning Inspectorate figures, both Northumberland County Council and North Tyneside Council last updated their Local Plans in December, 2010.

The MPs say this leaves communities at risk of undesirable development while the CLA points out rural areas can miss out on investment in essential infrastructure.

Now, they are calling for a consultation on a legal time limit by which councils must have plans in place or face financial penalties.

Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth
Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth
 

CLA North regional director Dorothy Fairburn said: “More than two and a half years on from the NPPF, slow rates of implementation are hampering development across the rural economy.

“Inconsistent implementation is contributing to a crisis of under-investment in infrastructure, business and housing across the rural North.

“Local Plans are vital to attracting investment, especially in rural communities.

“Drastic action is needed to make sure councils are prioritising their Local Plans, which is why we back the committee’s call for new legislation. We also believe this should be backed up by some form of financial penalty.”

The CLA, which has a 34,000-strong membership, supports landowners by advising them on how best to protect and maximise their land assets.

The organisation was involved in helping the Government develop the NPPF and in ensuring it provided a framework for promoting sustainable development in rural communities.

Currently, it is also pushing for councils to abide by new legislation designed to encourage more conversion of agricultural buildings.

Recent figures showed that, since the law changed, only one third of such applications have been permitted by local authorities.

Miss Fairburn added: “The introduction of permitted development rights was a hard fought battle for the CLA and the Government.

“The fact that local authorities are blatantly refusing to follow legislation is a scandal.

“If the Government is serious about getting more underused agricultural buildings back into use and helping with our chronic housing shortage, then the Planning Minister must act to ensure local authorities take a genuinely constructive approach to permitted development.”

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