Planning Law solicitor, Jo Lilliott discusses key proposed changes to the current planning system published by the Government.
In late summer, at the same time as publishing its consultation on “Planning for the Future”, the Government published a consultation on measures that are likely to be of more immediate effect--- ‘Changes to the Current Planning System’ ---to improve the efficiency of the system in certain areas and support economic recovery.
The consultation ended on 1st October 2020 and measures will probably be brought in quite quickly after the close of the consultation; time will tell however. In the meantime, here is a reminder of the proposals and some comments.
The current method comprises a baseline of household projections which are then adjusted for affordability and capped to limit the increase for a specific area.
The changes aim to allow the Government to hit its target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year, and a more appropriate distribution of homes but are seen as a temporary measure in advance of the more wide ranging and binding reforms proposed in Planning for the Future.
So, what are First Homes. Here are some key points: -
It is currently proposed that First Homes will be secured via Section 106 Agreements with the government providing standard drafting for this purpose. That will be subject to change following the consultation on the possible replacement of S106 agreements by an Infrastructure Levy—all part of the Planning for the Future consultation.
The Government also acknowledges that there will be costs associated with administering the scheme and will provide new burdens funding, if required. It is considering whether LPAs can charge developers and purchasers fees that reflect administration costs.
Support for small and medium builders (SMEs) has been extended by proposing to increase the size of schemes where affordable housing is to be sought. This will be introduced for an initial period of 18 months with the small sites threshold proposed to be increased from 10 units to 40 or 50 units and from 0.5 hectares to an as yet undecided site area threshold through changes to national planning policy. The consultation also notes that “rural local authorities secure greater proportions of their housing supply as affordable on average when compared to urban local authorities” and so this increase in the site area threshold will not apply to designated rural areas, in these areas the current threshold of 5 units or fewer, will be maintained.
If this does proceed following the consultation period, it will come in quite quickly as a decision will be made via the introduction of a Written Ministerial Statement in the Autumn.
This proposal will allow a Permission in Principle (PiP) application to be submitted for a wider range of sites then at present and in turn increase the speed at which housing development can occur.
Potential Schedule 2 EIA development, including large sites capable of delivering more than 150 dwellings and/or of more than 5 hectares would not be able to apply for PiP unless the application were accompanied by a screening opinion concluding the proposal was not EIA development.
For commercial development, the consultation proposes to remove the 1,000 sq m limit for commercial development floorspace.
This is a reform of the PiP process which was first introduced in 2017 but has not been used as much as the Government expected due to the current size limitations.
PiP is not a planning permission; it is part one of a two stage process that grants planning permission. The second stage is technical details consent, which on larger developments, may not necessarily be easily achieved. The granting of technical details consent means that the site has planning permission; this is the key difference between outline planning permission and permission in principle.
The determination period for a PiP on application is five weeks and includes a 14-day consultation period with public and statutory consultees. The Government considers these timescales ensure “a speedy decision by the local planning authority”. However, as a result of extending the scope of PiP to major developments the Government is considering amending the scope of information required and the publicity requirements placed upon the local planning authority.
The relevant matters which should be assessed by a local planning authority in a PiP application are location, land use and the amount of development. The Government is considering adding a height parameter in terms of the number of storeys, as an additional matter to be assessed. This would add to the complexity of the determination of the application by bringing design issues into the PiP process
As larger developments are proposed to fall within the scope of PiP on application, the Government is keen to give the public a greater opportunity to comment, perhaps by requiring a press notice but there is no reference to neighbourhood notification. Currently local planning authorities need to advertise PiP applications on their website and by posting a site notice.
The Government is keen to revise the cost to applicants of submitting an application for PiP downwards, in order to make the process more attractive to developers, particularly on larger sites and as an alternative to an outline planning application. As part of this push, the Government proposes to introduce further clarity and guidance on the purpose, process and benefits of PiP. The consultation states that ‘it seems some local planning authorities continue to make decisions on Permission in Principle based on detailed matters, such as transport access, when these should only be taken into consideration at the technical details consent stage.’ As such, the Government envisages new guidance to ensure that local planning authorities only take into account the matters specified by the Regulations.
That was a brief reminder of what the Government sees as the measures that need to be brought in quickly to give the economy a boost. We will update you further.