TPR, 59 (2) 1988
H. W. E. DAVIES
Development control in England
This article gives a brief introduction to the control of development in England.
as a background to a study on control in four European countries. It defines
'development' and describes the procedures for control, and the form and
function of development plans and policies. It concludes with a discussion of
some of the current issues arising from the discrectionary nature of
development control and ideas now being introduced or considered for reform.
The planning system in its current form in England was established by the Town
and Country Planning Act 1947. It set English planning on a different path
compared with those in Denmark, France, West Germany and the Netherlands and
indeed many other countries. Three things distinguish English development
control from the control of development in those other countries. First, planning
permission is exercised independently from building control; separate permits are
required. Secondly, planning permission is decided by reference to a development
plan and to any other material considerations; the plan is not binding. And thirdly,
the development plan stands alone; there is no statutory hierarchy of higher level
regional plans or national policies which are required by law.
This article provides a brief introduction to development control in England, by
way of an introduction to, and contrast with, the systems for the control of
development in the four European countries which follow. It must be emphasised
however that, under the English legal system, by which the courts continually
interpret the law, development control raises very complex and detailed points of
law relating to its aims, definitions and procedures. A full understanding of
development control thus requires constant reference to the primary and subordinate legislation, and the case law on appeals to the courts. This article gives a fairly
general account with some commentary.'
The 1947 Act established for the first time in England a comprehensive, universal
and compulsory planning system, introducing a new form of plan and a new
concept of control.' The Act created a general definition of development which was
thereafter to be subject to control. It gave the local authorities (the elected county
and county borough councils) the power to make decisions about applications for
planning permission for the use and development of land, and a duty to prepare a
development plan showing the future use and development of land within their
area. It gave the Minister of Town and Country Planning (now the Secretary of State
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