This is the second time this year that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has ‘intervened’ in the examination of a local plan under section 21 (4) of Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Section 21 states:
(1) If the Secretary of State thinks that a local development document is unsatisfactory—
(a) he may at any time before the document is adopted under section 23 direct the local planning authority to modify the document in accordance with the direction; and
(b) if he gives such a direction he must state his reasons for doing so.
Under s.21 (4) the Secretary of State may, at any time before a development plan document is adopted by a local planning authority, direct that the document (or any part of it) is submitted to him for his approval.
The Government's recent willingness to use this power can only be a sign that there will be more such directions to come in the near future.
Just weeks after being appointed communities secretary, Greg Clark took the almost unprecedented step of intervening in a local plan examination, directing that Maldon District Council’s plan be submitted to him for approval. The dramatic intervention – only the second time a secretary of state has invoked powers in section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 – came after a dispute between the council and an inspector over the document’s policy on traveller provision looked set to torpedo the entire plan.