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Change to call-in procedure could lessen Blears' workload

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The current ‘call-in’ system could be significantly overhauled to reduce the workload of Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, the government has announced.

In a consultation paper released this week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) suggests limiting the growing number of schemes which are automatically referred to central government for final approval.

Among the developments that the DCLG no longer wants to be routinely passed on to the Communities Secretary are residential projects with more than 150 houses or flats, and large inner-city retail schemes of 20,000m2 or more – although edge-of-town schemes will still be reviewed.

Also proposed is the ‘elimination’ on call-ins for schemes on land belonging to the local planning authority, or development of any land by such an authority.

The department instead wants to concentrate on schemes affecting three main areas: playing fields, green belt and flood plains. There is also a separate category for projects in World Heritage areas where English Heritage has objected.

By effectively passing the final decision back to local government, the DCLG hopes the ‘resulting reduction in workload should enable government offices to spend more time on the complex cases’ and to make decisions on 80 per cent of called-in developments within three weeks, as outlined in the Planning White Paper.

The full consultation document can be read at: www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/callindirections

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