The Government has just closed its consultation on proposals to change the process of applying for orders that allow local highways to be closed so that development can take place.
Under Sections 247 and 248 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, a developer is only able to apply for a stopping-up or diversion order after planning permission has been secured, which can cause big delays for developers. According to the consultation paper, applications for stopping up orders are currently assessed within 13 weeks but can take significantly longer where a public inquiry is held. Applications to stop up or divert a local highway are currently made to the Secretary of State for Transport.
The 2010 Penfold Review, which suggested ways to reduce the obstacles and delays that can hinder development projects (click here for more details), recommended the simplification of the application procedure to the Government.
The consultation paper’s proposals include (1) allowing applications for a stopping-up or diversion order to be submitted at the same time as an application for planning permission is made – thus reducing potential delays, and (2) giving local authorities new powers to determine applications for stopping-up orders – thus bringing all local authorities across the country in line with London boroughs, who already have this power. The consultation paper makes clear that the Government believes that local authorities are “better placed to determine the merits of a stopping-up application that relates to local development” and that a change would reduce bureaucracy and simplify and accelerate the process.
However, the Penfold Review’s recommendation for an integrated system for considering planning applications and stopping up or diversion applications was rejected by the Government.
Also of interest to developers is that the consultation paper asks for comment on whether local authorities should be able to recover a fee from the developer for the costs associated with determining stopping up or diversion applications. However, if approved, this may (literally) be a small price worth paying for developers if, in future, they are able to speed up the application process and get their development under way more quickly.
The Government will consider the responses it received and will issue its own response before the end of the year. Subject to the findings of the consultation, the changes will be delivered through amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
UPDATE: On 18 September 2012, the Government published its interim response to this consultation, stating that the majority of respondents had given broad support for allowing stopping up and planning applications to be made concurrently. The Government also stated that it will seek an early legislative opportunity to implement this change.