The Budget Report, published yesterday, criticised the planning system, stating that it has “held back investment and created distortions in the way that businesses compete, deterring development and growth.”
1. Introduce a new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to development and planning applications (that comply with up-to-date planning policies at a national and local level) is ‘yes’. The Government is expected to publish details of the presumption in favour of sustainable development in May 2011, including how it will be integrated into national planning policy;
2. Localise choice about the use of previously developed land, removing nationally imposed targets, which specify the levels of development that should take place on previously developed land, while retaining existing controls on greenbelt land, sites of special scientific interest, and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The Government views nationally imposed targets as preventing local communities from exercising choice in respect of local land;
3. Pilot a land auction model, beginning with public sector land. The Budget Report contains no details of the scheme but there are reports that it will involve local authorities asking landowners to submit a binding price at which they would be willing, for a fixed period of time, to sell their plot of land. The local authority would (1) have the right to buy that plot of land at the set price and grant planning permission, as appropriate, and then (2) auction the land to interested developers, whilst keeping any increase in the sale price. The Government intends to pilot the scheme on publicly-owned land within the next 12 months;
4. Introduce measures to streamline the planning applications and related consents regimes, removing bureaucracy from the system and speeding it up. This will include a 12-month guarantee for the processing of all planning applications, including any appeals. The Government will consult in summer 2011 on expanding permitted development rights to include further types of minor commercial development, and consult in autumn 2011 on further measures to streamline the information required to support planning applications. The Government will publish its first annual update on simplifying and streamlining measures in planning and development control in autumn 2011;
5. Ensure a fast-track planning process for major infrastructure applications through the Major Infrastructure Planning system. Major infrastructure applications will be determined within 12 months from the start of the inquiry to the decision; and
6. Consult on proposals to make it easier to convert commercial premises to residential. The Government will consult on a proposal to allow changes of use, without the need to apply for planning permission, to class C3 (residential) of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 from class B1 (business); class B2 (general industrial); or class B8 (storage/distribution).
Also, in the Government’s Plan for Growth, the Government announced that it will:
1. Introduce new powers so that businesses are able to bring forward neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders, which deem planning permission to have been granted for specific development or specified classes of development within all or part of a neighbourhood area;
2. Introduce, through legislation, a duty on local authorities and public bodies to require them to co-operate on planning issues;
3. Produce a national planning policy framework to attain more development in suitable and viable locations; and
4. Establish up to 21 new Enterprise Zones, where economic growth will be encouraged through financial incentives and a more relaxed planning regime.
We will of course be closely following the implementation of these proposals and will be posting further updates on our website throughout the year.