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REVIEW OF STATUTORY DUTIES

Date: 19/4/2011

POS supports the principle of reviewing the range of statutory duties imposed on local authorities in order to reduce burdens where appropriate, and to give more local discretion.


Review of Statutory Burdens Team
Department for Communities and Local Government
3/H6 Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU

Dear Sirs,

This response is made on behalf of the Planning Officers Society (POS).

The Society represents the most senior professionals and managers of planning functions in the English Local Authorities. We are rightly styled as the credible voice of public sector planning.

We set out to:

  • enable public sector planners to work together with Government and partners
  • be a strong and united voice for public sector planners supporting and shaping planning policy and practice in local communities
  • be a preferred point of contact for public sector planners where they can access learning, support and networking opportunities
  • find common ground with other disciplines, organisations and the media to improve the planning process, policy and implementation
  • broaden our membership and create a strong cohort of young planners, representative of the ethnic and gender diversity of the UK.
  • The Society's aim is to make planning more effective in delivering sustainable development to support the well-being of our communities.

 

General Observations

POS supports the principle of reviewing the range of statutory duties imposed on local authorities in order to reduce burdens where appropriate, and to give more local discretion.  POS also recognises that the review is currently at an informal stage and it is assumed that more detailed work, including undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the removal or amendment to duties, will subsequently be undertaken.  In our view this is necessary to ensure that a more detailed understanding of the consequences of the removal or amendment of certain duties is clearly understood.  This is vital in order to avoid 'unintended consequences' including the potential for subsequent legislative voids or the removal of duties which provide the 'hook' for national policy and detailed regulation implementation. An example of this is DEFRA 15 - Town and Country Planning Act 1990.  This is a fundamental part of the Planning legislative framework. It's removal would leave a significant legislative void as it effectively provides the framework against which all planning applications are determined.

The responses that we provide below therefore focus on those areas of legislation where we believe there is an overlap between existing pieces of legislation, where opportunities for simplification exist, or where we have already provided comments to, for example, the draft Localism Bill. In relation to this later point amendments are proposed in relation to the removal of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS).  POS has already proposed that should RSSs be removed then there is a need to have a provision within the Localism Bill in relation to a 'Duty to Co-operate'.  For assistance the POS submissions in relation to the Localism Bill can be viewed at:

http://www.planningofficers.org.uk/POS-Library/POS-Responses/Response-to-Localism-Bill_198.htm

Detailed Comments

For ease we have crossed referenced our response to the referencing set out in the DCLG and 'Other Departments' schedules.

CLG 148     -    whilst the duty should remain we are of the view that the current prescribed   method should be replaced with an approach allowing local authorities to use their discretion. At present this duty places a significant financial burden on local authorities to place adverts in local newspapers.  There are less expensive means of publicity that have a wider audience than public notices placed in newspapers which have been subject to falling circulation figures.  

CLG 154     -    we are of the view that this has effectively been superceded by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) requirements which we assume will continue as part of the integration of the IPC and the Planning Inspectorate.

CLG 174     -    the requirement to submit to the Secretary of State (S of S) should be removed

CLG 175      -    Local Development Schemes and CLG 185 Annual Monitoring reports.  These should be combined (together with the requirement to produce a Statement of Community Involvement) into one document which for ease we have called a 'Community Planning Statement'. This is in line with our submissions in relation to the Localism Bill.

CLG 184     -    the requirement to submit to the S of S should be removed

CLG  189    -    this should be amended to give LPAs the power to withdraw Development Plan Documents after they have been submitted to ensure local discretion

DCMS 001 - we agree that this should be removed.

DCMS 024 - Enforcement in relation to Crown Land.  Our recollection is that subsequent legislation in relation to Crown Immunity may have superceded this.  If this is not the case then this duty should be reviewed to ensure a more open and transparent process.

DEFRA 011 - Recent case law has resulted in planning authorities carrying out a similar exercise to Natural England licensing processes when determining planning applications.  It is important that essential legislation is retained but any duplication with other processes is reviewed and streamlined.

DEFRA 044  - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 53. Duty to keep a public rights of way Definitive Map & Statement under Continuous Review to record and therefore help protect the public rights of way network. This duty could be streamlined and improved by the adoption of the 32 proposals (in their entirety) in the Natural England Stakeholder Working Group's report to Government "Stepping Forward" 22nd March 2010. The weblink to this document is as follows:  http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/enjoying/places/rightsofway/swgrow/default.aspx

 At present there are a number of associated regulations or powers as follows:

  • Wildlife and Countryside (Definitive Maps & Statements) Regulations 1993
  • SI 1993 NO 12
  • Public Rights of Way (Register of Applications under section 53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) (England) Regulations 2005
  • SI 2005 NO 2461
  • DEFRA Rights of Way Circular 1/09

DEFRA 080 - The removal of this duty would have an indirect impact on authorities as it may lead an increase in fly-tipping which would place a burden on local authorities to remove.   

MOJO 049 and DEFRA 176 - Local authorities often receive requests for information under both and yet the information is publicly available in any case. The planning process deals with a lot of environmental information, so there is a need to comply with this. However there are other means for accessing such information, such as through the Freedom of Information Act. Therefore a single system for local authorities would be less of a burden. 

 

We hope that the above comments are of some assistance and we would be more than happy to discuss these comments in more detail as the review work develops.

 

Yours faithfully

 Nicky Linihan (Ms); Topic Convenor - Housing, Regeneration and Economic Development; 19 April 2011

 

 

 

 

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