Truss hints she may reduce Planning Inspectorate’s powers

Needs to be read in the context of two types of “Conservative” councils: those that are conservative Conservative and those that are “build, build, build” Conservative. – Owl

Will Ing 

On Wednesday (7 September), Conservative MP Peter Bottomley asked the new prime minister why the national planning body ‘is able to overturn councils’ planned protections’ for green areas.

Bottomley also raised specific concerns about the housebuilder Persimmon’s plans to build 475 homes in the Goring Gap in Worthing, which were approved by the Planning Inspectorate but later overturned in the High Court.

Liz Truss responded that Bottomley was ‘right’ that ‘there is not enough power in local hands at the moment’.

She added: ‘It is too easy for local councils to be overruled by the Planning Inspectorate and that is certainly an issue that I expect my secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities [Simon Clark] to look at’.

The commitment appears at odds with elements of planning reform proposed by former housing secretary Michael Gove earlier this year – which were described by critics as an attempt to ‘radically centralise planning decision-making’.

Lawyers for campaign group Rights: Community: Action have said that the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill contains provisions which would allow the housing secretary to grant permission to contentious developments and ‘bypass the planning system entirely’ with ‘no right for the public to be consulted as part of this process’.

It is not yet clear whether Truss and Clark will look to pass the bill in its current form. If the government did review and change its proposed planning reforms, it would be for the second time since then-housing secretary Robert Jenrick unveiled a white paper on planning in August 2020.