The District Councils’ Network (DCN) has scheduled talks with the new communities secretary and housing minister to discuss the threat of planning powers being taken out of local hands, Transport Network can reveal.
Communities secretary, Sajid Javid, is due to meet with the local government lobby group in mid-September, while housing minister Gavin Barwell will sit down with DCN in October after the Conservative Party conference.
The crunch talks come after the last government under David Cameron threatened to take away the power to create local plans from any council that had not ratified one by a 2017 deadline.
Councils have had years to produce the plans, which outline development policy for a given area, however by autumn last year of the 82% of councils that have published plans, only 65% have fully adopted them.
In an exclusive interview with Surveyor magazine this month, DCN chairman Cllr Neil Clarke said: ‘For now we have to work on the assumption that the policy it is still the same. Whether that is true or not I can’t say at this time.
'We have to try and get this sorted. I have been encouraging and trying to persuade councils – originally, years back, we were hoping every council would have a local plan by now, so things have slipped.’
Among the issues that could have delayed the process is the claim that the Planning Inspectorate often rejects local plans it regards as being too light on housing, Transport Network has been told.
Leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council, Cllr Clarke said: ‘That happened to our council. We started off in the old regional spatial strategy with 16,500 houses. We managed in our local plan - on a needs assessment and including a duty to co-operate with the city of Nottingham - to get it down to 9,500 and the inspector said: “That is not sound. Go away and find another few thousand houses.”
‘We felt rather aggrieved at that, being put under that pressure. It’s very difficult. The problem is if we don’t conform, then the worst thing in the world is to have planning policy by appeal.’
The full interview is in September's Surveyor magazine along with our Highways Management 2016 conference preview.