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Community right of appeal proposals criticised by DCLG minister over business impact

Proposals to introduce a community right to appeal against controversial planning applications have been criticised by local government minister Greg Clark for introducing possible ‘expense and delays’ for infrastructure providers.

Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay Stephen Gilbert proposed an amendment to allow right to appeal during the final Localism Bill committee session.

Gilbert said: “Community right of appeal as defined in the new clause could be triggered only where a decision to grant a planning permission is not in line with an already adopted plan, or where the local authority itself has a particular interest in the application and so could be construed as conflicted in its ability properly to determine the application.

“There are many controversial planning issues, such as one in my constituency regarding an incinerator and energy from waste recovery facility, which the local authority is pursuing. It has been rejected by the local authority’s planning committee, but there is a clear interest in getting it through. The new clause would set a high bar regarding who would be able to appeal, limiting the right to a number of representative groups.” 

However, the proposals were criticised by Clark. He said: “Business organisations and many of the developers that will need to invest in our infrastructure, particularly in local infrastructure, are concerned that the proposal would introduce greater expense and delays into the system. The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich [Nick Raynsford] described it, or a previous incarnation of it, as a barmy measure. I would not go that far, because coming from a system in which there was little confidence in local people’s ability to have their say and their way, I understand its provenance.” 

UKWIN network co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen told MRW: “The proposed amendment certainly mirrors UKWIN’s concerns over symmetrical rights to appeal for the community, in that sense we welcome the recognition of the asymmetrical nature of the current planning system and we welcome the Coalition’s stated commitment to bringing about a planning system which is fairer and we hope they will make good their promise.”

If Greg Clark can come up with a different mechanism that levels the playing field, we’d be very interested to examine those proposals. At the moment, a public enquiry is the only mechanism short of a judicial review to allow someone who is truly independent to pass judgement on a planning application.”

Following the minister’s comments, Gilbert agreed to withdraw the proposed amendment, but commented he would “return to the matter” at the next stage of the legislative process.

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