HOW welcomes change to public inquiry rules

Changes introduced this week to the criteria governing call-ins for public inquiries should benefit developers, according to Gary Halman, partner at HOW Planning in Manchester.

The new Government Circular and Direction replaced the Departures Direction from Monday 20 April in an attempt to simplify the planning process by consolidating referral requirements.

The new rules mean that local authorities have the power to decide for themselves without referring decisions to Government Office for the North West in respect of plans for:

  • more than 150 houses or flats
  • development of land belonging to a planning authority, by that authority or any other party, or for the development of land by such an authority, whether alone of jointly with any other person
  • any other development which, by reason of its scale or nature, or the location of the land, would significantly prejudice the implementation of the Development Plan's policies and proposals.

Halman commented: "This is a significant change introduced by the Government. It will reduce the number of applications that have to be referred, leaving more to be determined entirely by local planning authorities.

"There will, as a result, be less scope for intervention by the Secretary of State, with less call-in inquiries; indeed that is one of the stated objectives of the changes. This will be welcome news for developers promoting applications which might have been caught under the old rules, as the risk of expensive and lengthy public inquiries is reduced."

The new Circular and Direction also sets out those types of developments which local planning authorities must refer to the Secretary of State for her consideration.

These include development proposals in Green Belt areas, those affecting playing fields and any on or next to World Heritage Sites.

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