Government announcement on further planning reforms

Following speculation in the press over the last couple of weeks, the Government has today released a statement setting out a proposed range of measures for making further reforms to the planning system, following the publication of the NPPF in March this year.

The statement includes encouragement for councils to use existing powers to review areas of green belt to free up areas of land suitable for development, for example previously developed sites, whilst maintaining the general openness of the green belt, for example by bringing alternative land into the green belt to compensate. Local authorities who propose such changes will have their local plan examinations prioritised to ensure such changes can be brought about quickly.

Proposed reforms include changes to permitted development rights, with the introduction of rights to enable changes of use from commercial to residential properties and a proposed consultation on increasing permitted development rights for households and businesses for a three year period.

In order to ensure new housing developments go ahead, the Government intends to introduce legislation in early 2013 which would allow a developer of a site with a S106 requirement for affordable housing to appeal the requirement should they feel it is making the scheme unviable, and to allow the Planning Inspectorate to reassess the contribution in the light of the current economic conditions. Developers will also be able to seek a one year extension to planning permissions to given them additional time to get sites up and running before their planning permission expires.

And perhaps at odds with their ‘localism’ agenda, the Government proposes to give the Planning Inspectorate further powers, including the role of directly deciding planning applications in local authority areas with poorly performing planning departments, and the ability to award more costs against councils at appeal where it is clear they have not handled a planning application as it should have been. The Government is also planning to consult on options for speeding up planning appeals and for introducing a fast track process – similar to the one introduced for householder appeals – for small commercial appeals. In another proposal to move decision making away from the local level, there are proposals to bring more proposals under the thresholds for consideration by the Major Infrastructure Unit, including commercial and business development, to allow more schemes ‘of sufficient significance’ to be considered and determined at a national level.

More details to follow…..

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