In the News: Coping with a local plan holding order

Written by: Colin Marrs
Published on: 7 Dec 2016

Waheed Nazir Last month, the government lifted its holding direction on Birmingham's draft local plan, saying the council had "taken a robust approach that is consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework". Waheed Nazir is Birmingham City Council’s strategic director of economy

Q. When did you first hear that a holding direction would be issued?

About five months ago we were sent a formal letter from the housing minister informing us of a holding direction. They informed us they would look at and review the plan. No specific reason was cited, although a nearby MP, Andrew Mitchell, had raised concerns about the release of green belt land. That seemed to be the principal concern.

Q. Once the holding direction had been issued, did the planning department grind to a halt?

No. A number of policies in the plan were being carried forward from our previous plan and we continued to make those and other policy areas. For example, we continued to work on supplementary planning guidance for a 6,000 home urban extension.

In development control, we continued to use the existing plan, but have given weight to the emerging plan. We have had no losses on appeal during this time, and have maintained our good record of making more than 90 per cent of decisions within government targets.

Q. How was dealing with central government officials on this issue?

They reviewed the plan themselves and we didn’t have to provide much more substantial information – most that was needed was available from the public inquiry into the plan. I am normally not afraid of criticising central government, but it has been an efficient process. We have been through Brexit and a change of ministers and they still turned round the decision quickly. Five months is lightening quick for Whitehall.