Michael Gove

25 May 23

The housing secretary has written to 10 local planning authorities to warn them that their planning performance is at risk of designation.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) published the letters earlier this week about their performance under Section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

In his letter, housing secretary Michael Gove says: “The government is clear that having an efficient and effective planning service at local authority level is essential to delivering the homes, building and investment the country needs.

“The planning performance regime was introduced to ensure that all local planning authorities contribute to this objective. I have significant concerns about the performance of a handful of local authorities including your council.”

The letter was sent to 10 councils whose performance was below an expected threshold of 70% between October 2020 and September 2022, listed below:

  • Calderdale Council: 53%
  • Cotswold District Council: 69.6%
  • Epsom and Ewell Borough Council: 52.5%
  • Guildford Borough Council: 50.1%
  • Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council: 46.5%
  • Peak District National Park Authority: 61.2%
  • Pendle Borough Council: 68.3%
  • Portsmouth City Council: 63.2%
  • The Vale of White Horse District Council: 66.6%
  • Waverley Borough Council: 61.7%

Mr Gove described these ratings as being “indicative of a very poor-quality service to local residents and a significant deterrent to investment in your local housing market and wider economy”.

He said: “The consequences of formal designation are that applicants could submit relevant planning applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate until I am satisfied that acceptable performance can be, or has been, achieved. I have asked the Planning Inspectorate to prepare for designations over the summer period.”

The housing secretary will give these councils a chance to improve by June this year before formally designating them.

He added: “I want to be clear, however, that I expect the performance of your planning service to exceed our performance thresholds and stay above it consistently. 

“I will monitor your performance closely and, if during this period your performance falls below the required threshold, I will not hesitate to use my powers to designate your council later this year.”

Mr Gove’s warning comes as new research by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) shows that planners are leaving the public sector as the profession comes under fire for its role in the housing crisis.

The RTPI found that a quarter of planners left the public sector between 2013 and 2020. At the same time, the private sector experienced an 80% increase in the number of employed planners.

Consequently, the boss of the RTPI has warned about the “detrimental” impact of political narratives on the profession regarding its role in the housing crisis, which is contributing to the “widespread abuse and mistreatment of planners at the local level”.

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