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Only a third of councils have adopted local plans

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Just a third of councils have adopted local plans in seven years figures published this week have shown, prompting further fears the government’s reforms could lead to untrammelled development on green spaces.

The Department for Communities & Local Government’s figures, updated to the end of May 2011, show that at the end of 2010, seven years since the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, just 73 of the 335 local planning authorities - around 22% - had adopted a core strategy. This figure rose to around 100 authorities - or 30% - by the end of May 2011, leaving 70% of planning authorities without core strategies.

The controversial National Planning Policy Framework contains a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. Under this reform, councils must have new local plans in place or obtain a certificate of conformity to ensure their plans are in line with the NPPF, if they are to avoid having to wave through development on green spaces.

LGA Conservative group head Gary Porter said that under the government’s reforms having a local plan in place was the “only way only way to be able to shape development locally”. Cllr Porter has urged councils to quickly adopt NPPF compliant local plans.

But last month Jay Das, a partner at law firm Wedlake Bell, told LGC that as few as 5% of local planning authorities could have new NPPF-compliant local plans in place before the legislation comes into effect next year.

“That means that up to 95% of local authorities will not have adopted plans which conform, leaving a significant policy vacuum while planning policies are reshaped to accord with the framework.

“During this period developers could apply to build on green spaces and the local authorities would be powerless to stop them because of the presumption”.

Communities minister Andrew Stunell said development would be expected to be “sustainable and well-designed if it is to go ahead”. “Our streamlining of the planning system does not give the green light to development everywhere,” he said.

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