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Government notifies council of 'designation' over major planning application decisions

The government has this week written to Uttlesford District Council advising that it will be taking charge of making decisions on major planning applications in the district.

The decision to 'designate' the council, made under the Town and Country Planning Act, is set out in a letter and accompanying notice.

It means that applications for major development - which includes development of more than 10 houses or over 1 hectare - can be made directly to the Planning Inspectorate, although applicants will have the option of continuing to apply to the council in the usual way should they wish. The council is also required to prepare an improvement plan.

This follows a notice from the government in October 2021, highlighting that the council had been assessed as failing against one of three national key planning indicators - namely, that the proportion of major applications overturned at appeal was over 10%. This dates back to applications submitted in the period April 2018 to March 2020, with appeals heard until the end of December 2020.

The letter of designation is very disappointing. The council has commissioned its own independent expert peer review of the planning service, published in October 2021, and has already put in place a thorough and comprehensive improvement plan. Progress against this plan was reported most recently to the council's Scrutiny Committee last week (3 February).

The council will put together a response to the government's letter over the coming days, and will recommit to making the substantial improvements necessary to its planning function as set out in the peer review report.

Councillors and planning staff are hard-working and passionately dedicated to delivering an effective planning service that supports quality development. Both the ongoing improvements to the planning service and the emergence of a new Local Plan are critical to the successful future of the district, and the council is already making steady and welcome progress in the right direction.

8 February 2022


Additional information

Uttlesford District Council are designated for quality of decision-making in respect of applications for planning permission for major development.

Uttlesford District Council: Letter of Designation (PDF) [486KB]
Letter of Designation under Section 62A Town and Country Planning Act 1990. From the Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP to Peter Holt CEO Uttlesford District Council.

Uttlesford District Council: Notice of Designation (PDF) [293KB]
Notice of Designation under Section 62A Town and Country Planning Act 1990, of Uttlesford District Council for applications for major development.

Changes to the consideration of major planning applications and consultations on major applications submitted directly to the Planning Inspectorate were discussed by the Planning Committee Working Group on 2 March 2022.

Peer review carried out by the East of England Local Government Association

The East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) was appointed by Uttlesford District Council to undertake a peer review of the council as the Local Planning Authority. The review report was completed in August 2021.

Uttlesford District Council Local Planning Authority Peer Review (PDF) [281KB]

Planning review progress report presented to Scrutiny Committee on 3 February 2022

Progress summaries: