Q1: The Committee was concerned at the risk that local authorities could “game the system”, that is, use their powers to grant planning permission for land under their ownership with the intention of selling it on very quickly, in ways that might limit or circumvent the possibility of challenge by other interested parties (notably, local residents). Does MHCLG see any such risk and, if so, what safeguards / oversight arrangements exist to guard against it?
A1: Unitary authorities have had the power to dispose of land with the benefit of planning permission they’ve granted themselves for a long time (since 1998). The effect of the Town and Country Planning General (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2018 is simply to extend that ability to other local authorities (i.e. those in two tier areas). We are not aware of any particular propriety concerns in relation to unitary authorities using this power, and so we have no reason to think that such concerns will arise as a result of extending it to other local authorities.
On the issue of ensuring fairness and transparency, there are existing safeguards built into the planning system to ensure that local authorities act properly when determining applications for their own development. These are set out in the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992, and include the requirement to advertise and consult on any such applications as they would any other planning application, so local residents will be aware of, and have the opportunity to put forward their views on, proposals. Where they raise relevant planning objections the authority must take those into account. A further safeguard is that the planning application cannot be determined by a committee which manages the land in question nor by an officer with such responsibilities.
Also, in two-tier areas if the authority in question does not intend to develop the land itself (or jointly with a developer) then, if it is not a matter for which that authority would normally have responsibility, they must apply to the other authority in the area for permission. For example, if a county council intended to undertake housing development itself it would apply to itself for permission. However, if the county council did not intend to undertake the housing development itself, the district authority would determine the application (because housing is not a county matter). This provision is unchanged by the 2018 amending regulations.
We do not consider that additional safeguards are required in respect of two tier authorities.
Q2: In the EM, you state that “the change will not apply to any planning permission granted before 23 February 2018”. The Committee asked why: if the intention is to facilitate development by allowing existing permissions to be transferred with the land, excluding permissions already granted seems to go against that aim.
A2: The rationale for not applying the new rules to planning permissions which have already been granted is to ensure that anyone with an interest in a proposed development is fully aware of the effect of the grant of planning permission (i.e., that it will run with the land) in case that might influence if/how they wish to comment on the application. To apply the rules to cases where permission has already been granted would deprive interested parties of that opportunity.
22 February 2018
22 European Commission, Fact Sheet - October infringements package: key decisions, 22 October 2015: [accessed 20 February 2018]
23 Gov.uk, Policy paper: 25 Year Environment Plan, 11 January 2018: [accessed 23 February 2018]
24 Gov.uk, Consultation outcome: New rules to tackle diffuse water pollution from agriculture in England, 30 September 2015: [accessed 23 February 2018]