A "recipe for chaos" was how the British Property Federation described Conservative Party plans to allow third-party appeals. In its planning green paper released on Monday the Tories said they would "make the system symmetrical, by allowing appeals against local planning decisions from local residents as well as from developers".
BPF chief executive Liz Peace said: "Third party right of appeals would be a recipe for chaos. It would clog up the system and undermine everything the Tories have said about being pro-development. Housebuilding is at its lowest level for generations and we need to kick-start construction without delay."
Under the plans residents would have to argue that a planning decision contravened the local plan, a claim that would be heard by the Planning Inspectorate, or that correct procedure was not followed in assessing the application, which would be determined by the Local Government Ombudsman.
The paper claimed there would be a mechanism for "weeding out frivolous or malicious appeals which would significantly delay development", but said the system would be "significantly swifter and cheaper than judicial review", the only option open at present to challenge the granting of planning consent.
Hugh Bullock senior partner and head of planning at Gerald Eve said: "Improving speed and certainty in the planning system is vital to achieving investment in much needed development of homes and jobs. The prospect of a third party right of appeal significantly increases risk and uncertainty. It has been considered several times before and rejected."
The paper also revealed plans to introduce a new development tariff and scaled-back section 106 regime in place of the Community Infrastructure Levy, and outlines incentives for councils to allow new development.
Peace said: "Local incentives are sensible if the sums are large enough to sway people and few will mourn the death of the CIL, although we suspect a tariff may be rather similar in practice. "The key to making any new proposals work will be an ongoing, direct conversation with the industry to ensure that what looks good to voters is truly workable in the real, post-election world."
Richard Ford head of planning at international law firm Pinsent Masons summed up the paper for many in the industry. "Abolition, abolition, abolition - the extent of repeal of the recent Labour reforms is huge. Some changes I would support, particularly the business rates incentives elements. But further thought will be needed to avoid an over-zealous lurch to localism following what has perhaps been an over-zealous lurch to centralism by the current Government. A firm hand on the tiller is needed, not a white knuckle ride in the making."
Source: Brown Lloyd James Financial