Out-Law News 1 min. read

Government considers raising threshold for designating councils as underperforming

The proportion of major planning applications local planning authorities will need to determine within the statutory period to avoid being placed in 'special measures' could increase under new proposals by the UK government.

The proposals are set out in a consultation paper published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) yesterday. It proposes that the threshold for designating authorities as underperforming, based on the speed of deciding applications for major development, should increase from 30% to 40% or fewer of decisions made on time (15-page / 78KB PDF).

The government's 'special measures' designation policy was introduced by the Growth and Infrastructure Act in May last year. If a local authority is designated as underperforming, developers can choose to submit planning applications for major developments to the Planning Inspectorate for determination instead of the council. 

The consultation paper said that the proposed 40% threshold would be used for the next round of designations in October 2014. It said that the intention to designate under-performing authorities and the thresholds that might be applied have been known for the "great majority" of the July 2012 to June 2014 assessment period for those designations.

The tests for allowing an underperforming local authority to avoid designation because of 'exceptional circumstances' would be clarified under the proposals. This would be determined with reference to whether the issue "significantly affects the reasonableness of the conclusions that can be drawn from the recorded data for the authority" and whether the issue "had a significant impact on the authority's performance, for reasons that were beyond its control".

The paper also sets out proposals to introduce a new threshold for affordable housing contributions under Section 106 Agreements. Under the measures the use of Section 106 affordable housing contributions would be restricted where sites contain ten units or less with a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 sq m and for residential extensions or annexes.

The DCLG said the measures were intended to help address the "disproportionate burden being placed on small scale developers, including those wishing to build their own homes, and which prevents the delivery of much needed, small scale housing sites".

A requirement would also be introduced under the proposals for local authorities to consider not applying Section 106 affordable housing contributions to vacant buildings being brought back into any use, other than "proportionately for any increase in floor space".

"This would be on the basis of incentivising brownfield development in accordance with national policy and that such development has a limited impact on local infrastructure," the paper said.

The consultation is open for responses until 4 May.

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