” … Labour’s shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “I cannot believe that the government are serious about this. I know that they tend to carry out pilots, but they must realise that the potential for this mechanism to generate a degree of corruption and totally inappropriate conflicts of interest is probably endless. These new clauses need to be subjected to a degree of scrutiny that will not be possible this evening.”
She said that ministers’ decision to table the amendment late in the bill’s passage through Parliament meant that it has “not been possible for the planning agencies that will be affected by the changes to have a say or to have any input into the process. That is quite frankly disgraceful, because these will be huge changes to the planning system”.
Communities and local government select committee chair Clive Betts said that the new clause is “effectively about the privatisation of the planning service. That is what it potentially amounts to after pilots have been brought in”.
He said: “Let me explore what that might mean. Does it mean that an individual or organisation will be free to shop around for whichever alternative provider they think can give them the best chance of getting a planning application accepted? Will they be able to look at the track record of providers around the country?”
Betts added: “My worry here is that someone parachuted in from outside, with no knowledge of an area but a track record of dealing with applications quickly, may not be as sensitive to the needs of a local community.
“If I was a local MP in an area with particular planning pressures and had concerns about getting those decisions right, I would start to be very worried about the scenario that is developing.”