§ Lord Newall
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is their policy with regard to the use of the powers under Section 276 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 to revoke planning permissions granted by local planning authorities.
§ Lord Hesketh
Section 276 is a default power. Among other things, it enables the Secretary of State for the Environment to take action to revoke a planning permission, after following specified procedures. There is provision for compensation to be paid.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment's practice has been to use this power only rarely. He has taken the view that the power should be used only if the original decision is judged to be grossly wrong so that damage is likely to be done to the wider public interest.
Recently, however, a particular kind of case has come to the attention of my right honourable friend in which he may well be prepared to exercise his power to revoke a planning permission. This is where he considers that consistency between a local planning authority's decisions in different cases is needed, in order to ensure that similar circumstances give rise to similar decisions and that the provisions of the development plan, so far as it is material, and other material considerations have been fully taken into account.
My right honourable friend wishes to remind planning authorities of the importance of behaving 335WA equitably as between applicants, and being seen to do so. Where applicants for similar permissions in similar circumstances have been treated differently, it can seem capricious and unfair. Although there is a place in the planning system for consideration of personal circumstances, my right honourable friend thinks that these have to be very marked indeed to justify treating similar applications differently. He also wishes to remind all members of planning committees that their decisions should be governed by material planning considerations alone. They should be most careful to avoid even the appearance that they may have been influenced by immaterial considerations.
My right honourable friend will continue to consider each case on its merits bearing in mind this policy.