The Secretary of State has powers in England to "call-in" a planning application and "recover" a planning appeal, to determine it himself. This briefing examines those powers.Jump to full report >>
The Secretary of State has powers to “call-in” planning applications and “recover” appeals. This briefing – which applies only to England - examines those powers.
The Secretary of State has the power to take the decision-making power on a planning application out of the hands of the local planning authority (LPA) by calling it in for his own determination. This can be done at any time during the planning application process, up to the point at which the LPA makes the decision.
The power to call-in planning applications is very general and the Secretary of State can call-in an application for any reason. In practice, very few applications are called-in every year. They normally relate to planning applications raising issues of national significance.
If a planning application is called-in, there will be a public inquiry chaired by a planning inspector, or lawyer, who will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State can reject these recommendations if he wishes and will genuinely take the final decision. In taking the decision, Ministers and the Secretary of State must follow the former Department for Communities and Local Government’s Guidance on Planning Propriety Issues.
Anyone can ask for a planning application to be called-in. Applicants should give clear reasons why they think that the application should be called-in, including why it is of more than local importance.
The request does not have to come from an MP. An MP can make representations to have an application called-in, but they must be open ones.
In certain circumstances, LPAs must notify the Secretary of State of particular types of planning application. For further information see the Planning Inspectorate’s Procedural Guide: Called-in planning applications – England.
The Secretary of State also has a similar power to recover a planning appeal which has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. A recovered inquiry is basically a planning appeal (against a LPA’s decision) which the Secretary of State can decide to determine himself, rather than allowing a planning inspector to take the final decision, as is the normal process.
For more information about the planning system in the other UK countries, see the Commons Library briefing, Comparison of the planning systems in the four UK countries: 2016 update.
Other Commons Library briefings on various matters to do with planning are available on the topic page for housing and planning.
Commons Briefing papers SN00930
Authors: Gabrielle Garton Grimwood; Cassie Barton