The sheer quantity of emerging planning legislation shows little sign of abating. Not content with achieving the formal ratification of the Housing & Planning Act the Government is to introduce yet further changes to the planning system through the Neighbourhood Planning & Infrastructure Bill.
This new bill’s underlying aim is to deliver the Government’s requirements for new homes and the strategic infrastructure needed to support it. The Bill will concentrate on the following key aspects of the planning process:
Neighbourhood Planning (NP) – the Bill refers to the further strengthening of neighbourhood planning, principally by improving support from local authorities and the process for reviewing and updating plans. Clearly further detail on this will be forthcoming, but such a move will only be successful if proper resources are put in place to allow the NP procedure to be streamlined whilst remaining of significant weight in the development planning process.
Planning Conditions – the Bill will seek to ensure that pre-commencement planning conditions are only imposed by local planning authorities (LPAs) where they are ‘absolutely necessary’. This proposal is to be generally welcomed because excessive pre-commencement planning conditions can often delay, or even prevent, the construction of homes after they have been given planning permission. Whilst pre-commencement conditions are very often justified (e.g. requiring construction management plans or tree protection measures), a number of others could quite easily be dealt with at a later stage in the construction process, so allowing for an earlier start.
Quite how the Government will legislate for this remains to be seen. Existing Planning Practice Guidance already demands that pre-commencement conditions should only be used where the LPA is satisfied that requirements of the condition are "so fundamental to the development permitted that it would have been otherwise necessary to refuse the whole permission".
Compulsory Purchase – the Bill will seek to make the compulsory purchase order process clearer, fairer and faster for all those involved. •This includes reform of the context within which compensation is negotiated – often a very significant and complex part of finalising a compulsory purchase deal.
National Infrastructure Commission – the Bill will establish the independent National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory basis. This Commission is intended provide the Government with expert, independent advice on infrastructure issues by setting out a clear, strategic vision on the future infrastructure that is needed to ensure the UK economy is fit for 2050.
As usual, more detail is needed and we will report back on the Government’s proposals as they develop. No doubt the Government is prioritising work on the secondary legislation requirements set out in the Housing & Planning Act. But, one thing is certain; the Government hasn’t finished yet with tinkering with the planning process in its bid to speed up the delivery of housing.
Andy Shepley, Associate Director.
Contact Andy on 0117 244 0517 or firstname.lastname@example.org