The secretary of state is seeking powers to intervene to ensure councils do not delay neighbourhood plans and to enable him to override an examiner's recommendations.
Stephen Tapper, The POS Local & Neighbourhood Planning subject specialist, commented to Planning magazine that one element of the new legislation is of particular significance. Clause 13B (4) of the bill declares that the secretary of state may 'direct the local planning authority to act in a way that is not in accordance with what was recommended by the examiner' if new evidence emerges or if he simply takes a different view, Tapper pointed out.
"He's giving himself the ability to override an examiner's recommendations, which is quite significant," Tapper said. This, he added, is "in a sense watering down the idea of complete local independence." Tapper said he is curious to find out what circumstances and terms will warrant such an intervention, but he believes that the secretary of state would not use these powers very often. The resoning behind it, he said, is "probably the growth agenda: he wants to make quite sure that every opportunity is taken for neighbourhood plans to promote growth and housing".