A little-known facet of the planning system is that scores of big decisions every year are taken not by locals but from desks in Victoria, London. The adjudications are nominally by Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities, although in reality they are quasi-judicial decisions worked through by officials.
Today I’ve number-crunched the data and worked out that 81 schemes have been adjudicated by Pickles since the last general election. That rate – about 5.3 a month – is roughly the same as his predecessor over a similar period.
While the SoS has backed councils in 51 cases, he has over-ridden them in 30.
They include a dozen housing schemes with over 6,000 new homes; seven traveller sites, and a sprinkling of other projects including a plant reprocessing low-level nuclear waste.
What’s interesting is that the decisions – you can see most of them here on the DCLG website – increasingly cite the pro-growth March statement by Greg Clark, planning minister. (This came months before the new controversial ‘national planning policy framework‘.)
Up in Raunds, East Northamptonshire, 66-year old Eileen Stubbs – who has belonged to the local Conservative Club for 40 years – tells me she should never have believed her own party’s promises on localism.