Gove suggests PINS operating counter to ministerial objectives

During the second reading of the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, Michael Gove suggested that the Planning Inspectorate has been disregarding ministerial objectives by allowing councils to adopt Local Plans contrary to the wishes of communities and granting speculative appeals where the council has an up-to-date Local Plan.

The Secretary of State assured the House that his department would be “taking steps to ensure that the Planning Inspectorate, when it is reviewing a local plan and deciding whether it is sound, does not impose on local communities an obligation to meet figures on housing need that cannot be met given the environmental and other constraints in particular communities”.

He added that the Planning Inspectorate has “been operating in a way that runs counter to what Ministers at this Dispatch Box have said over and over again”, however he conceded that they had “simply been following Government Policy”. The Secretary of State added that “that has got to change, and it is through both legislation and changes to the NPPF that we will do so.”

Under new plans detailed in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, councils with an up-to-date local plan would no longer be required to maintain a rolling five-year housing land supply.

Mr Gove insisted that ministers will “make sure that, even as we democratise and digitise the planning system, we are in a position to make sure that the Planning Inspectorate ensures not that every plan fits a procrustean bed, but that every plan reflects what local communities believe in”.

He also added that “in one or two areas of the bill, there are placeholders, where more work is required to be done” and suggested that the government is currently in the process of considering further amendments, pending discussions over the impact of potential revisions to the NPPF.

It is clear that new ministerial guidance to PINS will be brought forward to ensure that more weight is given to community objections during the appeals process. This suggests a definite shift from the pro-growth, pro-development policies of the Cameron-Osborne years, to a more NIMBY brand of conservatism; this will likely lead to a further decline in housing numbers as appeals become more of a challenge and decisions of the Planning Inspectorate more closely reflect current Government policy, thus restoring the primacy of councillors. A new world is dawning!

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