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Member Briefing: Written Ministerial Statement

Date: 22/07/15

Written ministerial statement

Councils required to have local plan prepared by early 2017 

In a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) issued on Wednesday 22nd July, Housing and Planning Minster, Brandon Lewis set a deadline of “early 2017” by which time all local planning authorities should have  produced a local plan. Failure to meet this deadline will result in the government intervening to “arrange for the plan to be written, in consultation with local people, to accelerate production of a plan”. 

Although no specific date is given as a deadline, the WMS makes reference to “early 2017 – five years after the publication of the NPPF” which came into force on 27th March 2012. There is similarly no definition of what will be considered as a plan having been “produced” as required. The lack of the word “adopted” in the WMS suggests that even draft plans may meet the criterion of “produced”. 

As announced in the Productivity Plan, published last week, the government will publish league tables setting out local authorities’ progress on their local plans. 

The WMS also states that the government will “strengthen planning guidance to improve the operation of the duty to cooperate on key housing and planning issues” and that such cooperation in particularly important “where our housing needs are the greatest”. 

The full WMS can be found here: 

In an association with the WMS Greg Clark also wrote to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) reiterating the importance of local plans in the planning system, particularly in relation to their assisting housing delivery.

The letter reiterates the statements of the WMS (above). However, it also states that “inspectors approach examination [of local plans] from the perspective of working pragmatically with Councils towards achieving a sound Local Plan”. In particular, Inspectors should be highlighting significant issues at an early enough stage to give Councils a full opportunity to respond”.

The letter also draws attention to the WMS that planning guidance will be changed to make clear that “commitment to an early review of a local plan may be appropriate as a way of ensuring that a local plan is not unnecessarily delayed by seeking to resolve matters which are not critical to the plan’s soundness or legal competence as a whole”.

The letter can be found here: 

HBF Comment

This WMS is less forceful than we might have expected from a government that has clearly lost its patience with those local planning authorities who do not have up to date local plans. The deadline of almost 2 years in which to have “prepared” a plan may not be a strong enough threat to those authorities who simply do not want to produce a robust and sound plan.

Similarly, effectively encouraging local planning authorities to adopt a strategy of “early review” merely to ensure that they meet the deadline for plan production will inevitably lead to many of the LPAs who adopt such a strategy slipping behind in their review programme meaning that plans are not kept up to date or reviewed to take account of new evidence, particularly with regard to housing need.

New guidance on the duty to cooperate will, however, be welcome, especially, as stated in the WMS, in those areas where housing needs are greatest.

Andrew Whitaker

HBF Planning Director

July 2015