Councils face possible government intervention over local plans

The government is threatening intervention on determining where three councils should build new homes after accusing leaders of failing to develop local plans.

A total of 15 local authorities have been written to by housing secretary Sajid Javid to inform them on possible intervention. Furthermore, Castle Point, Thanet and Wirral councils will now be assessed by the government’s chief planner and a team of experts to determine if the government will take over the process of producing a local plan.

In Northumberland, the government has instructed the council to produce their plan earlier and to make the timetable clearer. Basildon, Bolsover, Brentwood, Calderdale, Eastleigh, Mansfield and St Albans, which have all committed to publishing draft plans before the end of September 2018, will now have their progress monitored by government officials to ensure they keep to agreed timescales.

Under The Planning Act of 2004, local councils are required to have a clear 'local plan' for development, clearly stating the areas which were to be protected and conserved, such as the Green Belt, and those areas which would be considered for development for housing and commercial use. Local Plans are a key part of the government’s comprehensive programme of planning reform and targeted investment to ensure the homes local communities need are built.

Commenting on possible intervention, Javid said: “Whilst most councils rightly recognise their responsibilities and most have worked hard to meet the housing challenge, some have failed.

I expect those authorities we identified in November to continue to make progress. I’m also stepping it up with three councils in particular, sending in a team of experts to make a direct assessment, ensuring they plan properly for the future or we’ll have to do it for them.”

Wirral, being one of the councils in the firing line, has defended its position by claiming delays have been down to the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies and withdrawal of government funding.

Wirral Council leader Phil Davies said: "Sajid Javid and his Tory colleagues are dead wrong. It is for Wirral residents through Wirral Council to determine what our housing needs are and where new homes should be built. We neither welcome nor appreciate the secretary of state's overtly political intervention."

But the housing secretary has refuted the council’s claims by arguing that many other councils have managed to produce a local plan from existing budgets and said that enabling development “in the short-term without a plan is not a justification for failure to produce a plan”.

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email