Councils warn of rule breaches in Government planning application advice

The Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS) has told local authorities to ignore the Government’s planning advice or risk judicial review.

A report entitled ‘Councillor Involvement in Planning Decisions’, which was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) last month and which was written by engineering giant Arup and other consultants, recommends pre-application involvement by councillors as beneficial for both parties in making better planning decisions.

But ACSeS president Meic Sullivan-Gould, borough solicitor at the London Borough of Hackney, warns that pre-application involvement will leave decision-makers open to allegations that they have breached the rules of natural justice.

Sullivan-Gould said: “I’m stunned that the DCLG could give advice to local authorities that lays their decisions wide open to judicial review. Authorities should take this advice with a fistful of salt if they take it at all.”

The ACSeS chief warned that councillors could face allegations of bias because of prior involvement with interested parties, or be accused of having breached their councils’ codes of conduct by incurring disrepute through apparent bias.

The DCLG was unavailable for comment.