LGA’s response to Street Vote Development Orders consultation

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities held a consultation from 22 December 2023 to 2 February 2024 on the detailed operation of street vote development orders, a new route to planning permission introduced in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023.

About the Local Government Association

The LGA is the national voice of local government. We are a politically-led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.

Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.


In principle, we are concerned that street vote development orders (SVDOs) will not bring material benefit to the development and delivery of the homes and infrastructure we need in this country. We are also do not consider that the proposals as set out in this consultation have been properly considered with regards to elections or the role of local authority democratic services teams, nor will they have positive implications for planning and place-making.

Implications for planning

We support the push for greater community engagement in the planning system, and welcome and encourage initiatives which seek to increase public support for development, particularly at the early stages. However, we believe this is best achieved through the local plan process led by democratically elected members.

The Government’s recent consultation on the implementation of a new style of plan-making set out proposals seeking to simplify, speed-up and digitise the system,  making it more transparent and accessible for communities to understand and engage with. And yet, SVDOs represent a further, and unnecessary, complexity to a system which can be hard to navigate.

Our primary concern related to SVDOs relates to the ever-decreasing role of the local planning authority and democratically elected local councillors in strategic and local planning decisions. SVDOs characterise a further undermining of the intentions of an enshrined locally led planning system with emboldened local leaders through powers in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act, alongside the continued expansion of permitted development rights and the proposed National Development Management Policies which risk undermining local authorities and a centralisation of planning powers. 

With regards to the specific proposals, the consultation sets out that a group of residents will “be able to come together with a proposal for permission to be granted for development on a street” and that SVDOs “will be examined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State to check… that development meets high design standards and that local impacts are taken into account”. We are alarmed that local authorities will play no part in the creation of these plans which will grant planning permission for certain developments, and that they will not be afforded a role in ensuring or checking the compliance of SVDOs with policies in the local plan. 

Further, we would raise concerns with Government about the capacity and resourcing requirements of the Planning Inspectorate, in recognition of not only the existing backlog and workload, but the proposed changes to the planning system and the role they will play in local plan-making in the future. If the Government is minded to take forward these proposals it must be satisfied that the Inspectorate have the resources and capacity to undertake the examinations of SVDOs alongside other priority work. 

Whilst we understand from the proposals that there is to be no involvement from local authority planning departments in SVDOs, should this change during future development of scheme design, we would expect this to be accompanied by adequate new burdens funding to support already over-stretched and under-resourced local authority planning teams

The development requirements for SVDOs, along with the list of assessments and evidence base documents that will need to be undertaken to support SVDOs, are lengthy and complex and rather akin to the types of studies that are required to support a local plan. The design requirements will need to be highly detailed, and we question the cost and resources that will be necessary to pull together an SVDO by members of the public. 

We therefore are not convinced that there will be a significant take-up of SVDOs, nor would they culminate in the delivery of a meaningful number of new homes. We would draw attention to the much more pressing need to deliver the affordable homes required to meet current demand, with more than 1.2 million households on council waiting lists in England and over 100,000 households living in temporary accommodation. We are calling on the Government to go further and faster in order for councils to be able to properly resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes by implementing a six-point plan for social housing

Practical implementation of referendums and elections

The SVDO process requires a referendum administered by the local authority. The process for the referendum has not been fully set out in the proposal and we believe that the Government may have underestimated the complexity of the proposal and the implications of this new requirement on councils. There are some key areas where we have concerns, both about the practical administration of the referendums and about the fairness of the process.

The current proposal sets out two groups of voters who are eligible to vote under different franchise rules. For residents, they must be registered to vote on the local register on the date the proposal is submitted to the Inspectorate; non-domestic ratepayers must be eligible to vote in UK Parliamentary elections. This creates two disparities. First, some individuals, such as EU citizens with retained voting rights, will be able to vote as a resident but not as a ratepayer. Second, residents not on the electoral register at the point the proposal is submitted for examination will be shut out of voting on the proposal, while ratepayers will have time to register to vote after the referendum is called. We believe that the franchises should be similar and that both residents and ratepayers should have the chance to register to vote after the referendum is called and up until a similar deadline. We propose the Government consider mirroring arrangements for similar polls, such as Business Neighbourhood Planning Referendums, to ensure arrangements are not preferential to one group or another.

The proposed turnout rate of 60 per cent of the eligible electorate is very high and we would question whether this is realistically achievable. Average turnout for local elections is around 30 per cent for scheduled elections; turnouts for local referendums may be even lower. Additionally, we would suggest that the proposal that at least one voter in at least half of the voting households in the street area votes in favour is unworkable because it would require administrators to open and assess all votes. This goes against the presumed secrecy of the ballot, which is a key tenet of our electoral system and might discourage people from voting the way they wish to or at all. 

On this point of integrity, it is unclear from this proposal how other rules around campaigning, spending and undue influence would apply to these polls. Clarity on this in relation to SVDOs will be critical in ensuring that these referendums are fair, transparent and protected from inappropriate influence.

In relation to the administration of the polls, there are several key issues to consider. First is the practicality of postal-only ballots. Approximately one in five registered voters are postal voters. However, every other voter would need to apply for a postal vote and provide specific information to confirm their identity and for the purpose of verification that the ballot has been completed by the voter, including date of birth and signature. This is a significant process which would need to be completed before the postal ballots were issued.

Second, local authorities currently do not have the authority to share the register of electors with the Planning Inspectorate as they are not a relevant organisation under Regulation 113 of the Representation of the People Regulations 2001. In addition, under the current legislation, local authorities can only use the electoral register for specific purposes, which do not include the validation of proposals, as this is not a statutory function of the council. Legislation would be required to enable these checks.

Finally, the proposal does not deal with several practicalities, including timescales, protections to business-as-usual activities such as avoiding combination with other polls, clarity about how these referendums would be funded and resourced and where the street crossed over two local authority areas. These issues would need to be clarified in some detail. Again, it may be helpful for the Department to consider other similar polls such as neighbourhood planning referendums with a business element for which the timetable is 84 statutory days. Less than this would be unworkable.


The LGA do not believe the proposals for SVDOs will make a clear contribution to delivering the homes our country needs, nor will they simplify or make more transparent the planning landscape. There are also a number of practical considerations related to the referendum that must be remedied. 

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns with representatives from the Department in more depth.