Lord Nolan’s report on standards in local government, published on
Tuesday, called for tighter rules and greater openness in the planning
process for councils and those lobbying them.
’The one thing in planning we have to be sensitive of is backroom deals,’
said Charles St George, director of Political Planning Services which
specialises in helping companies to get planning permission from
councils.’Our experience is there is minimal corruption but often the
public perception, particularly when it comes to planning, is that there
Nolan’s committee recommended that every council maintain a register of
councillors’ interests. It also said that councils should adopt rules of
openness to allow public discussion of planning agreements. Access to
documents should not be restricted except where justified by commercial
confidentiality, which should be interpreted narrowly.
The Department of Environment should ’consider tightening legislation to
prevent planning permissions being bought and sold’.
The report also recommended that the Government should be more ready to
use its powers to call in all major planning applications handled by an
authority where, over a period of time, there is substantial public
concern about decision-making procedures.