The NPPF starts to bite

    The Growth and Infrastructure Bill

    On 18th October 2012, the Coalition Government published the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which gives effect to a range of proposals announced in September’s written Ministerial Statement on housing and growth.

    With the demise of House of Lords reform (at least for a while) the Bill is a quick bit of opportunism, as the name suggests,  to help further stimulate  growth  and continue the process of streamlining the system for its delivery. Although it is a bit of a hotchpotch, covering a wide range of economic measures, its core reforms concern land use planning.

    Its proposed new measures include: 

    • Allowing applications to go straight to the Planning Inspectorate where councils are in ‘special measures’ due to poor performance in speed or quality of decisions.
    • Enabling the modification or discharge of planning obligations (Section 106 agreements) for affordable housing to make development viable.
    • Changing the scope of what comprises ‘nationally significant infrastructure projects’ to include some forms of commercial and business development.
    • Limiting councils powers to require any more information than is absolutely necessary to decide an application.
    • Changing the system for award of costs to discourage unreasonable conduct.
    • Making changes to ‘village green ‘legislation to make it more difficult to block development by claiming such rights.
    • Enabling applications for stopping up or diversion of rights of way etc to be made before planning permission is granted, rather than this having to wait until afterwards.
    • Postponing the next business rate revaluation until April 2017.

    Since its publication, the Bill has generated a significant amount of debate and some important details are still to be confirmed. For example, a consultation document has now been published proposing criteria for what will constitute ‘special measures’. These will include if councils decide 30 per cent or fewer major applications within 13 weeks over a two week period. Or of their proportion of major applications overturned on appeal is greater than 20% over two years.

    Similarly, another consultation proposes that although major business  and warehouse parks ,as well as substantial sports and leisure schemes would be ‘fast tracked’ directly to the Inspectorate as nationally significant projects, retail developments would be ruled out. Likewise schemes that include permanent housing would  also not be directed down the fast track route.

    There is a continuing debate too about how viability is to be assessed if a planning obligation is challenged. Guidance will be issued on the point; however this does not go so far as to require compliance with it. Indeed at the Committee Stage an amendment was tabled that would have set out viability criteria in regulations, but this wasn’t passed. So there will be plenty of room for continued argument.

    The Bill is now nearing the end of its Committee stage, and the Report on it is expected to be presented to the House of Commons by  6th December 2012. Assuming it passes its third reading and the House of  Lords stages, it ought to reach the statute book early in the new year and come into effect shortly thereafter.


    Key contacts

    David Henry

    David Henry


    Savills Cambridge

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253


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