Less than a year after the introduction of the government’s ‘special measures’ regime for poorly performing local planning authorities, the secretary of state has determined the first planning application submitted directly to him. Section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (amended by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013), which came into force on 1 October 2013, enables applicants to apply directly to the secretary of state to determine applications for major development where the local planning authority for the area has been designated as being in ‘special measures’.
In the first case, Gladman Developments applied to the Secretary of State to determine its outline application for 220 new homes, a school drop-off and pick-up zone and associated infrastructure in Blaby in Leicestershire. This application had been refused on five separate grounds, including conflict with the local authority’s planning policies seeking to promote sustainable development within or adjacent to Leicestershire’s principal urban area. The inspector took the view that the proposal would result in unsustainable out-commuting patterns and so conflict with the principle of promoting a reduction in travel. He considered that the development would fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of local heritage assets and not reflect the distinctive character of the area, and result in the loss of high-quality agricultural land.
The new procedure demonstrates that an application for major development can be determined on a quicker timescale – within three months in the Blaby case – than a scheme of this size might usually be considered locally. So far, this is the only application to go through the section 62A procedure. But does this route provide developers with a genuine alternative to working with local authorities in ensuring that development is acceptable at the local level, whilst waiving their right to appeal?