(L.43) Call-in POLICY: Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - 17 February 2009


The Government Office for London (GOL)has been responsible for issuing call in letters on behalf of the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon John Denham MP (see note below).

National responsibility for decisions on called in and recovered appeals is undertaken by PCCD (Planning Central Casework Division) within the DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government).

John Denham

The DCLG has much information on their role in the planing process. It sets out their brief as follows:

Planning, building and the environment

About planning, building and the environment

We are the Government Department responsible for planning policy and building regulations in England.

Planning shapes the places where people live and work and the country we live in.

Good planning ensures that we get the right development, in the right place, at the right time. It makes a positive difference to people's lives and helps to provide homes, jobs, and better opportunities for everyone. At the same time, it protects and enhances the natural and historic environment, and conserves the countryside and open spaces that are important to everyone.

As part of our role to protect and enhance the environment, we are working to tackle climate change - one of the most serious challenges facing us today. The Government's target is to bring about a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 and a 60 per cent reduction by 2050


The planning system controls what can be built and where. Communities and Local Government sets national planning policy - ensuring that people have decent affordable homes in well-designed accessible environments while protecting the countryside.

We are currently working to streamline the system making it simpler, faster and more accessible. We are also getting communities more involved and encouraging more public participation.

Most new buildings, changes to existing buildings or the local environment need planning permission. Planning applications are usually dealt with by your local authority. Local councils also prepare draft plans for their area.

Planning Casework

The Government Office for London's role in the planning system, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, can be divided into two main parts.

Individual Government Offices have Planning Casework teams which, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, deal with decisions on whether to call-in planning applications referred under the Departure, Green Belt, Shopping, Flooding and Playing Field Directions and requests to call-in, for her own determination.

Firstly the Government Office for London is responsible for issuing decisions on whether to call-in planning applications referred under the Departure, Green Belt, Shopping, Playing Field and Flooding Directions in London.

As well as dealing the above GOL also handles Environmental Impact Assessments on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State intervenes in very few planning applications, as the Government's policy on the use of power is to be very selective and not to interfere with the jurisdiction of a local planning authority unless it is necessary to do so. For details of the Secretary of State’s call in policy see link.

Secondly the Government Office for London takes decisions on whether to confirm Planning, Housing and Regional Development Agency Compulsory Purchase Orders for the whole of England

The decision of the Secretary of State on whether to grant planning permission following an appeal or the call-in of an application is informed by the report of an Inspector who nearly always holds a public inquiry into the proposal. Such decisions are "quasi-judicial", and therefore particular care is needed in taking them. However, similar considerations also arise in the exercise of discretionary powers on planning matters, such as in deciding whether or not to call in a planning application or recover an appeal.

The following document is a record of the statement made defining the current policy.

Call in Policy

Planning Applications

The Secretary of State’s policy on call-ins is set out in Richard Caborn’s statement of 16 June 1999 in reply to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Mr Bill Michie MP.

Mr Caborn:

My right hon. Friend’s general approach, like that of previous Secretaries of State, “is not to interfere with the jurisdiction of local planning authorities unless it is necessary to do so. Parliament has entrusted them with responsibility for day-to-day planning control in their areas. It is right that, in general, they should be free to carry out their duties responsibly, with the minimum interference.

There will be occasions, however, when my right hon. Friend may consider it necessary to call in the planning application to determine himself, instead of leaving the decision to the local planning authority.

His policy is to be very selective about calling in planning applications. He will, in general only take this step if planning issues of more than local importance are involved. Such cases may include, for example, those which, in his opinion:

  • may conflict with national policies on important matters;
  • could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality;
  • give rise to substantial regional controversy;
  • raise significant architectural and urban design issues; or
  • may involve the interests of national security or foreign Governments.

Listed Buildings

The Secretary of State may require applications for listed building consent to be referred to him for decision, but this call in power has only been exercised in a small number of cases in recent years. The policy is to be very selective about calling in listed building consent cases (PPG15 3.20).

Cases are likely to be called in where the Secretary of State considers that the proposals raise issues of exceptional significance or controversy. It may also happen that an application for listed building consent is received by a local planning authority when a related matter (eg. A planning appeal, a called in planning application or a compulsory purchase order) is being considered by the Secretary of State. Unless it is clear that the listed building consent application can reasonably be dealt with separately, such an application will normally be called in (3.21)

Ed. NOTES on recent web publication:
The above record of Mr Caborn's response, which was referred to in the letter from GOL, is the only definition for the call-in decision.


Top of Page; Go to Legal Index; Go to GOL call-in letter

[The GOL website contains some information on the Call-in process]

Home link

17/02/09 Last Updated17/02/09;30/06/09


NOTE: On the 5 June 2009 the Rt Hon John Denham MP became Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, replacing Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP.

Hazel Blears 2/2/09

John Denham - Biography

On Friday 5 June 2009, John Denham became the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

John Denham was first elected as MP for Southampton Itchen in 1992. Prior to being elected to Parliament, John was a Councillor at Hampshire County Council from 1981-89 and at Southampton City Council from 1989-92.

John's Ministerial career has included positions at the then Department for Social Security, the Department of Health and Home Office. He chaired the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs and from 2007 he served as Secretary of State at the newly formed Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) until 2009.

John was born in 1953 and educated at Woodroffe Comprehensive School, Lyme Regis and Southampton University, where he became president of the Students Union. He was Head of Youth Affairs at the British Council from 1979 until 1983, and was responsible for public education and advocacy for War on Want from 1984 to 1988. He subsequently worked for Christian Aid, Oxfam and other development agencies.

John Denham is a member of AMICUS (MSF) and in June 2000 he was appointed by the Queen as a Privy Counsellor.

Link to Communities and Local Government