Planning update
    Planning Update November 2013

    Autumn Statement Heralds Further Planning Reform

    The Government’s Autumn Statement announced a further round of measures on stimulating the economy and further streamlining the planning process.

     

    • For the first time, a statutory requirement will be placed on local authorities to produce development plans. This is new territory; it will presumably require some form of deadline to be applied to produce an up to date (and sound) development plan, and it begs the question as to what penalties will apply for failure to comply?.
    • Local authorities should expect guidance on the use of pre-commencement planning conditions, and a new measure will allow for the default approval of details under planning conditions where a planning authority has not made a decision on time. This will address a significant bugbear of the development industry.
    • Measures will be taken to reduce the number of statutory consultations, and a single point of contact identified for cases where conflicting advice is provided.
    • In early 2014, a specialist planning court will be established to deal with Judicial Reviews more effectively.
    • The Government will work with industry, local authorities and other interested parties to develop a pilot for ‘passing a share of the benefits of development directly to individual households’. This is difficult territory, as it raises the prospect of developers ‘buying off’ objectors, which could have difficult consequences, and it could also further increase the cost of development.
    • The New Homes Bonus (NHB) – a financial reward for local authorities when housing is built in their areas - might be withheld where housing is approved at appeal, thus providing an incentive for Councils to approve planning applications themselves.
    • The Government may extend the ability to apply directly to DCLG (via the Planning Inspectorate) to development in the areas of local authorities who determine 40% or fewer major applications on time. The present threshold for placing councils in such ‘special measures’ is 30%, and so far, only one authority has been affected. 
    • The issue of development viability remains high on the agenda. The Government proposes to consult on a new 10-unit threshold for section 106 affordable housing contributions. This would help to stimulate the bringing forward of small sites, though it might have implications for the role of CIL as the only means of capturing development value from smaller proposals, and would further impact upon the delivery of affordable housing where authorities are reliant on smaller sites for delivery.
    • Infrastructure provision remains on the agenda. The effectiveness of the National Strategic Infrastructure Planning (NSIP) regime is to be reviewed, and planning fees for NSIP applications are to be frozen for the rest of the Parliament. Provision will be made for the ‘Top 40’ infrastructure projects (as defined in the National Infrastructure Plan) to be delivered via the NSIP regime (thus bypassing local authority determination).
    • The Government will consult on liberalising change of use, from retail to restaurant or assembly and leisure uses (making the existing temporary permitted development rights permanent) and removing planning restrictions on mezzanine floors in retail premises.

    It is clear that the Government’s enthusiasm for reforming and liberalising the planning system has not diminished. These changes, many of which arise from suggestions made by the development industry through the Red Tape Challenge and other channels, will be broadly welcomed by the industry, though time will tell how quickly they can be implemented, and to what extent this can happen without them being unduly watered down.

     

     
     

    Key contacts

    Charlie Collins

    Charlie Collins

    Director
    Planning

    Savills Southampton

    +44 (0) 1483 796 837

    +44 (0) 1483 796 837

     

    Robert Lofthouse

    Robert Lofthouse

    Associate
    Planning

    Savills Wimborne

    +44 (0) 1202 856 909

    +44 (0) 1202 856 909