Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Peter Hayward (L 80)



1. I am writing to make written submissions regarding the Localism Bill to the Public Bills Committee currently considering this Bill.

2. Both of the parties that now make up the coalition government stated in their manifestos at the 2010 General Election that they would introduce a third party right of appeal for objectors regarding planning applications.

3. The proposal was that a requirement for leave should be imposed in respect of both applicants and third parties to appeal to the Planning Inspector if the grant of approval by the local authority or a local authority planning committee was in breach of its local plan.

4. The reason for this was that it was presumed that all local authority’s local plans would be in conformity with national planning laws.

5. In addition, an additional right of appeal would be given to both applicants and third parties to the Local Government Ombudsman in respect of procedural irregularities etc.

6. At the moment, only applicants for planning permission, conservation area consent and listed building consent may appeal to the planning inspector, irrespective of whether the application was dealt with at delegated officer level or by committee.

7. The development lobby, not unnaturally, were vigorously opposed to these proposals, and one of the arguments that they have put forward is that to give third parties the right of appeal, this would undermine the democratic process, if planning consent had been granted by elected councilors.

8. This argument is wrong, because many grants of planning permission etc., is granted under delegated authority by unelected local authority officers.

9. In addition, as at present only applicants may appeal without leave to the Planning Inspector in respect of both delegated decisions and those of committees, the same arguments might be made regarding this.

10. In any event, it seems completely wrong that applicants may have the unrestricted right of appeal to the Planning Inspector, irrespective of the merits of the appeal.

11. As a result, the Planning Inspectorate has to deal with a large number of unmeritorious appeals from applicants at present, and imposing a leave requirement for both applicants and third parties appeared to be good sense and created a level playing field.

12. It would also reduce the number of unmeritorious appeals from applicants, so that both parties would have to satisfy the Planning Inspector that there had been a departure and a misapplication of a local authority’s policies in its local plan before leave to appeal could be granted.

13. At present, many applicants simply appeal and hope that by doing so with high powered lawyers to represent them, that the local authority will simply be swamped by the number of appeals presented to them.

14. It must also be remembered that even if a planning application is rejected, the applicant may submit a fresh one, and councils rarely invoke the power given to them to restrict this within a given time period.

15. At present, the only remedy available to third parties is an application for Judicial Review in the High Court, which is both costly and cumbersome, and is totally unsuited for planning matters.

16. In addition, article 6 and 9(3) and (4) of the Aarhus Convention grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice, in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the local, national and trans boundary environment.

17. It has been argued that by denying third parties and members of the public the right of appeal in relation to the planning process, this is in breach of the Aarhus Convention.

18. The committee may be aware that it was due to the Aarhus Convention that the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 were implemented, which gives a freedom of information relating to environmental matters.

19. I would therefore urge that amendments be filed regarding implementing third party rights of appeal in planning along the lines originally proposed by the two coalition parties.

20. This might require appropriate amendments to be made to section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and sections 20 and 39 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, copies enclosed, which at present only provide for appeals by applicants etc. but not members of the public as third parties to planning applications.

21. In addition, amendments might also have to be made to section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 relating to any challenges to the High Court from the Ombudsman to bring it into line with challenges from the Planning Inspector.

22. It is not known whether this was in fact the original planned method of bringing in these reforms by the two coalition parties.

23. The Localism Bill has a substantial planning content, and so this would be an ideal time to test the parliamentary waters in order to see if such proposals have the support of both houses.

24. It should also be remembered that the Government is sponsoring the "big society", and is committed to giving power to the people and encouraging local accountability and involvement in the planning process.

25. The Government should in my view stick to its original proposals and not bow to pressure from unelected developer interests.

26. The Committee should also be aware that a complaint has been lodged in respect of this matter to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee of the United Nations in Geneva.

February 2011