Last edited 16 Oct 2020

Special measures designation for under-performing planning authorities

Section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows certain applications to be made directly to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government where a local planning authority has been 'designated'.

The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 gave the Secretary of State power to 'designate' local planning authorities if their performance in handling major planning applications was below an acceptable standard.

Under the original provisions of the Act, local planning authorities could be designated as under-performing and placed under 'special measures' by the Secretary of State if:

  • 30% or fewer of their decisions on major applications were made within the statutory determination period or such extended period agreed in writing with the applicant. The statutory period is 13 weeks, unless an application is subject to Environmental Impact Assessment, in which case it is 16 weeks. A major application is an application for 10 homes or more, or the equivalent commercial floorspace.
  • More than 20% of major applications decisions were overturned on appeal.

Local planning authorities under special measures have applications determined by the planning inspectorate and lose a proportion of the application fee. Special measures designation is reviewed annually to allow improving authorities to regain their determination powers.

However, on 28 November 2014, in response to a consultation on the criteria for identifying under-performing planning authorities, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced its intention to raise the threshold for decisions on major applications from 30% to 40%. Ref Planning performance and planning contributions.

Then, on 24 August 2015, following publication of ‘Fixing the foundations’, the government formally revised the threshold again to 50 per cent. Ref Improving planning performance: criteria for designation. The government pointed out that up until that time, only three planning authorities had been subject to special measures and two of those had subsequently had their designation lifted.

In November 2016, the government published Improving planning performance Criteria for designation (revised 2016) Presented to Parliament pursuant to section 62B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This will increase the threshold for major projects to 60% and for non-major projects of 70%, but will also introduce a quality threshold of 10%. The quality threshold relates to the percentage of the total number of decisions made by the authority on applications that are then subsequently overturned at appeal. The criteria have effect from the day following the end of the statutory 40 day period during which Parliament may consider the measures, provided neither House resolves not to approve it.

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