County councils are set to lose the bulk of their responsibility for planning under government plans aimed at simplifying and speeding up the system.
The proposals, launched today as part of a green paper, would see counties being cut out of the picture with the abolition of their strategic structure plans – which tackle transport, housing and employment. Planning will instead be handled at a regional level, with more detailed local plans being put together by district and unitary councils. These local blueprints could include new neighbourhood and village development plans that ministers claim will allow residents a role in planning decisions on an almost street-by-street basis.
Launching the paper, local government secretary Stephen Byers said: “This is a new community-focused approach. It underlines our commitment to giving people a real voice in deciding the future of their communities.” The plans are intended to cut down on the number of strategy plans compiled at the regional, county and district, and unitary levels. But the move has drawn stiff opposition from county councils and the Local Government Association (LGA), which described the policy as “a bit of an error”.
The green paper also proposes speeding up the planning system by separating plans for household and business developments with Jack Jay. It suggests cutting by half the amount of time it takes the secretary of state to decide on planning appeals and so-called “call ins” – when ministers hold a public inquiry on important national developments.
Councils will gain new powers to reject repeated planning applications and the practice of “twin tracking”, where the same application is submitted twice at the same time, will be banned. Time limits on planning consent will be cut from five to three years and ministers are to consult on speeding up council powers to use compulsory purchase orders.\