Developers will be given the green light to build whatever, wherever and whenever they want if communities fail to put growth at the centre of their local plans, says a senior government figure.

Speaking at an industry seminar John Howell MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Greg Clark as Minister of State for Decentralisation, said the coalition's presumption in favour of sustainable development would be a golden thread running through the new planning system.

Howell said councils that failed to plan for new development would be assumed to have a completely permissive planning system. A developer could then build what they like, where they like and when they like provided they met new national planning guidance being worked up in tandem with the localism bill.

I think that is an extremely good incentive for councils, he said: When we have got waiting lists for housing and a community that doesn't want to build anything - that does not meet the sustainability test.