Notifying the Secretary of State

When the Secretary of State has to be notified

Local planning authorities must inform the Secretary of State if they intend to approve an application that includes the following types of development:

  • in the Green Belt
  • of a large retail, office or leisure use outside a town centre
  • in, or affecting the setting of, a World Heritage Site
  • leading to the loss of a playing field
  • in a flood risk area.

These criteria are laid out in the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009. In detail, local planning authorities must notify the Secretary of State if they intend to approve a planning application for the following types of development.

Green Belt development

(a) the provision of a building or buildings where the floor space to be created by the development is 1,000 square metres or more; or

(b) any other development which, by reason of its scale or nature or location, would have a significant impact on the openness of the Green Belt.

Development outside town centres

This refers to development which consists or includes retail, leisure or office use which is

(a) is to be carried out on land which is edge-of-centre, out-of-centre or out-of-town;


(b) is not in accordance with one or more provisions of the development plan in force in relation to the area in which the development is to be carried out; and

(c) consists of or includes the provision of a building or buildings where the floor space to be created by the development is:

(i) 5,000 square metres or more; or

(ii) extensions or new development of 2,500 square metres or more which, when aggregated with existing floor space, would exceed 5,000 square metres.

World Heritage Site development

This means

(a) any development that would have an adverse impact on the outstanding universal value of a World Heritage site or its setting, including any buffer zones or equivalent; and

(b) a development to which English Heritage has objected, and the objection has not been withdrawn

Playing field development

This means

(a) the land (or any part of the land) which is the subject of the application -

(i) is land of a local authority; or

(ii) is currently used by an educational institution as a playing field; or

(iii) has at any time in the five years before the application is received been used by an educational institution as a playing field; and

(b) Sport England has been consulted and has made representations objecting to the development on one or more of the following grounds:

(i) that there is a deficiency in the provision of playing fields in the area of the local authority concerned;

(ii) that the proposed development would result in such a deficiency; or

(iii) that where the proposed development involves a loss of a playing field and an alternative or replacement playing field is proposed to be provided, that alternative or replacement does not match (whether in quantity, quality or accessibility) that which would be lost.

Flood risk development area

This means major development in a flood risk area to which the Environment Agency has made an objection, which even after talks with the local planning authority, is not withdrawn.

The full direction can be read here.

The Secretary of State decides how to respond

Once notification of the application has been received by the Secretary Of State, written confirmation of the date of receivership is sent to the local authority.

The Secretary of State has 21 days from that date in which to decide whether or not to call in the application. The local authority cannot grant planning permission until that time is up unless notified before the expiry of 21 days that the application will not be called in.

It often happens that the Secretary of State puts the application on hold so there is more time to assess it and decide whether to call it in.

Issuing this 'holding direction' is allowed under Article 25 of the Town & Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order 2010.

If the Secretary of State decides that no involvement is necessary then the local planning authority is advised that it may decide the application.

If it is decided to call in the application, then the application will be considered at a public inquiry, led by a planning inspector who will then make recommendations to the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State considers the inspector's report and recommendation and decides whether or not to allow the application.

Go to 'How Government decides whether to call in an application' for further information.


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