Plans to introduce new local member appeal panels – made up of local councillors – had been mooted as part of the Planning Bill that is currently making its way through Parliament.
However, the move was condemned by the RIBA and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) as lacking both ‘transparency and independence’ and potentially opening the door to ‘political bias’ during the appeal process.
Now Baroness Andrews, who is overseeing the passage of the Planning Bill, has said she agrees with the institutes, stating the panels could 'risk distracting local authorities, particularly when… there is an urgent need for them to focus on strategic plans and issues’.
Meanwhile a cross-party ‘design caucus’ led by the RIBA has claimed another minor victory after the government tabled two amendments to include design considerations in the bill’s National Policy Statements for major infrastructure.
Anna Scott-Marshall, the RIBA’s head of public affairs, said: ‘These amendments now mean that all major infrastructure projects, such as an airport or a high-speed rail project, will have to outline design criteria for the development from the start.
‘Importantly, this statement will need to be explicit about good design, which is a positive step forward and should ensure that the UK will build more projects like France’s Millau Bridge or Madrid Airport rather than ill-thought-out blights on the landscape.’
The RTPI added: 'The RTPI would like to thank [Communities Secretary] Hazel Blears for listening to the concerns of RTPI members and considering the issue. Removing this measure from the Planning Bill makes good sense and is a triumph for democracy.'
The amendments will be debated in Parliament tomorrow (6 November).