Government publishes revised local authority 'special measures' criteria

Out-Law News | 17 Jun 2014 | 4:28 pm | 1 min. read

The Government has published revised criteria (15-page / 115 KB PDF) for placing local authorities in 'special measures', increasing the threshold at which authorities will cede planning powers for failing to decide enough decisions within the required time.

The Growth and Infrastructure Act gave the secretary of state the option to designate any local authority that is not "adequately performing its function of determining planning applications" as underperforming, allowing planning applications to be submitted directly to the Planning Inspectorate.

Under the Government's initial performance criteria, published in June 2013, local planning authorities which determined 30% or fewer of the major planning applications that came before them within the statutory period or had more than 20% of their decisions overturned at appeal could be designated as underperforming.

Following consultation from March to May, the government has increased the threshold for designating authorities as underperforming based on speed. The new threshold will be 40% or fewer major planning applications being determined within the statutory period, or any longer period agreed with developers, over a two year assessment period.

An exemption to the speed rule will also be introduced, with local authorities that have decided no more than two major applications in the two year assessment period being exempt from designation for failing to decide decisions in time.

The threshold for the percentage of decisions being overturned at appeal will remain at 20% under the new guidance. Local authorities that have decided no more than ten major applications in the two year assessment period remain exempt from designation based on the number of appeals.

The new criteria allow local authorities two weeks following an announcement of their proposed designation to set out exceptional circumstances which they believe would make designation unreasonable. Authorities must base any arguments on factors that affect the reasonableness of conclusions being drawn from the available data or on significant issues that were beyond the authority's control.

The new criteria will take effect following the statutory 40 day parliamentary consideration period, provided neither House resolves not to approve it.