Decentralisation minister Greg Clark has said planners are wrong to fear that a new clause in the Localism Bill would lead to planning permissions being bought and sold.
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) denounced the new clause when it was tabled last week, under which councils may take into account “any local finance considerations, so far as material to the application”, when making decisions.
Its president Richard Summers said: “We are appalled the government is trying to introduce such a fundamental and potentially damaging change to the planning system without any consultation at such a late stage in the passage of the Localism Bill.”
But Mr Clark told parliament that the effect of the clause was “not what the RTPI perhaps suspected”, when it was agreed yesterday at the Bill’s second reading.
He said: “The proposal makes it clear that local finance matters that are relevant to planning considerations can be taken into account.
“It does not change the law in any way, and it is not some stealthy way in which to introduce a new basis for planning policy.”
Mr Clark said the clause allowed potential payments from the new homes bonus and community infrastructure levy to be taken into account in the same way as is planning gain – for example an agreement by a developer to provide a new road to a housing estate.
He added: “It is a simple and straightforward clarification brought about by the fact that it has been suggested in the press that some of these payments cannot be taken into account.
“It is important that councils understand that, where it is relevant to the planning matter in hand—but not otherwise—they can continue to take it into account.
But Labour’s former local government minister Nick Raynsford said the new clause “changes the presumption that planning permission cannot be bought and sold. That is an extremely dangerous move.”
An RTPI spokesman said: “It’s down to interpretation and we need to resolve this. We are still engaging with the government over this.”