"In a sign of the reshaped Government's priorities during the remainder of its term, the first day after summer recess saw the Neighbourhood Planning Bill receive its Second Reading (10 October).
"In the ensuing debate, Sajid Javid agreed with the 'central thrust' of the Local Plan Expert Group's (LPEG) recommendations, submitted to Cameron’s government in March, in relation to reinforcing the duty-to-co-operate and ensuring that all areas have a plan in place as a statutory requirement. The LPEG report had also proposed changing the test of a plan’s soundness and reducing the evidence base required.
"The Bill evidently covers Neighbourhood Planning, but also the planning register, compulsory purchase and planning conditions, including the requirement to seek an applicants' agreement to pre-commencement conditions. On this, the acting shadow communities secretary Teresa Pearce said that:
"It is not pre-commencement planning conditions that slow planning consent, but the chronic underfunding of local planning authorities ... It is not pre-commencement planning conditions that slow new schemes coming forward, but the lack of strategic infrastructure involvement.""Notably, the bill does not elevate the National Infrastructure Commission to a statutory body, which some believe could assist in housing delivery. Also conspicuous by its absence from the Bill, particularly to the opposition who seized on the Government's backtracking, was the abandonment of the Land Registry privatisation which Javid said 'will be [a decision] for the Government to make in future'; the second time this move has been postponed by the Tories.
"In a further twist, Gavin Barwell tabled further amendments, whilst giving evidence to The Neighbourhood Planning Bill's Scrutiny Committee, signalling abandonment of direct Government intervention in plan-making. Instead, the amendment would allow, 'The Secretary of State to direct two or more authorities to work together to produce a joint development plan document where that would ensure effective local planning in an area, for example, to address housing needs.'
"The Pursuit of a sub-regional planning agenda represents a significant change in Conservative strategy and even lead to Labour's Roberta Blackman-Woods to remark:
"I am very impressed by the new Minister's reading of the Lyons report that Labour produced a couple of years ago, because it is gradually being rolled out."