By Booth Philip
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Extra resources for Controlling Development: Certainty, Discretion And Accountability (Natural and Built Environment Series, 9)
Planning powers were divided between the tiers. Counties became the strategic planning authority and they prepared structure plans. However, districts took over the preparation of local plans, and acquired most of the control function. The relationship between the tiers in the first ten years after the change were not always easy. Counties, jealous of the planning strategies they were required to prepare, suspected districts of irresponsibility in taking development control decisions. Districts objected to meddling in what they believed to be their preserve.
The intention was both to remove trivial cases from local authority scrutiny, and to provide a sop for home-owners. The General Development Order, first approved in 1948, thus carries a schedule of what is habitually referred to as permitted development, for which express consent is not required. Important though permitted development rights are, their existence does not obscure the general principle that, since 1947, development rights have been nationalized. The elasticity that the 1947 Act introduced was further enhanced by a third important innovation.
Even in the early 1980s, housebuilders were arguing that planning had a role to play for them in identifying land for future development. Tom Baron, then Chairman of Whelmar, a major national housebuilder, who was appointed as special advisor to Michael Heseltine, although thoroughly critical of the way in which planning operated, nevertheless did not advocate its disappearance (Baron 1980). A decade later, the House Builders’ Federation was taking a notably more conciliatory line, and arguing for the retention of structure plans that central government had originally intended to abandon (Humber 1989, Parliament 1989).