Assistance in connection with neighbourhood planning

Part of Neighbourhood Planning Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:30 pm ar 20 Hydref 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London) 3:30, 20 Hydref 2016

We can always rely on the hon. Gentleman to shatter unanimity when it is in danger of breaking out. He makes a fair point. The cost of building, say, five new homes in his constituency will be lower than the cost of building five new homes in the City of Westminster. He is quite right to sound the alarm that we should not allow fees to go too high, but I suspect that if I spoke even to developers and the planning department in his own patch, they would say there is still an issue in terms of financing.

The hon. Gentleman did not say this, but the point is relevant. We tend to hear from developers, and we have to bear in mind that these fees are also paid by householders when they make applications to extend their properties or something like that. The voices we tend to hear are those of the large developers, but these fees are paid by others. None the less, the hon. Lady asked me to reiterate that I accept there is a problem, and I absolutely do. The Government have consulted on this issue, and the White Paper will contain our response. I think I have given a pretty good steer as to where I want to go.

I want to make a slightly partisan but important point. While I entirely accept the pressures that planning departments and, indeed, councils in general are under, it is important to note that despite the difficult period they have been through, they have had huge successes in driving up performance. I will give the Committee some figures. When the coalition Government came to power, 17% of councils had a local plan. As of this September, the figure was 72%. In the second quarter of this year, in the most recent figures available, 83% of major planning applications were decided within the time limit, which is the highest ever performance on record. In the year up to 30 June, our planning system gave planning permission for 277,000 homes. That is the highest ever figure on record.

I pay tribute to local authority planning departments. Despite the financial restrictions they have been under, they have raised their game significantly. I gently tease the Labour leader of my local council about this, because he flip-flops between press releases saying that the Government have financially crippled him and ones that boast about how well the council is performing. While I do not in any way underestimate the difficulties local councils have had, when this period is looked back on, it will be seen as one where public services have raised their game, despite the restrictions on resources.