Out From Behind Bars(well)

Gavin Barwell has finally admitted that the Government won’t enforce the early 2017 deadlineMedia engagement for Local Plans. Barwell’s admission, made in an interview at MIPIM, has been hotly tipped as the deadline looms and many Tory authorities seemed to be at threat.

Speaking yesterday, he said, the government needed to complete the consultation on a common assessment for housing need, along with the revisions to the NPPF.  These are not expected to be complete until the end of this Parliament – May 2020 – an extension of three years.

This recent statement is in marked contrast to Barwell’s earlier pronouncements, where as late as October last year he said that government would be sticking to its early 2017 deadline.

It appears that the government is attempting to row back from this earlier commitment.  The practicalities of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG)taking over the production of Local Plans was always problematic.  In addition, given the number of authorities not having their plans in place, it was never clear how the government would enforce this decision, or decide which LPAs to target.  The belief was always that Labour authorities would be targeted but with so many Tory authorities struggling it became inconceivable that they could be entirely ignored.

Even though this immediate pressure has been taken off local authorities in this position, they still face pressures to put in place up to date local plans.  Without a local plan or five year housing land supply in place, planning increasingly takes place by appeal, something most officers (although perhaps not members) would wish to avoid.

Mr Barwell gives a speech today in which he should further clarify these remarks. We will watch with interest.