The Planning Minister, Greg Clark, unveiled new measures to simplify the planning system on 3 July 2012, writes Jon Suckley, pictured. Recent changes to improve the planning system have already been introduced by the Government through the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Localism Act.
The Government is aiming to continue to streamline the planning system by removing unnecessary barriers and promoting quicker decision making. The new measures include:
1. Reducing Unnecessary Supporting Information – a Consultation Paper 'Streamlining Information Requirements for Planning Applications' has been published which aims to remove the requirement for unnecessary information to be submitted with planning applications.
The Consultation Paper seeks views on two sets of changes to secondary legislation and one change to the standard application form:
- Proposal A – reduce the nationally prescribed information requirement for outline planning applications. It is proposed to amend Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010 (DMPO) to remove the detailed information requirements relating to layout and scale for outline planning applications, where these matters are reserved.
- Proposal B – strong encouragement for Local Planning Authorities (LPA's) to keep their local information requirements under frequent review. The DMPO will be amended to require LPA's to re-visit their local lists of information requirements every 2 years.
- Proposal C – amalgamate standard application form requirements for agricultural land declarations and ownership certificates. The Consultation Paper proposes to change the standard application form by amending the ownership certificate to include reference to agricultural tenants, and deleting the separate agricultural land declaration.
The consultation closes on 11 September 2012.
2. Appeal Costs and Statutory Consultee Performance – changes to the award of costs at appeal have also been published in a Consultation Paper 'Statutory Consultee Performance and Award of Costs'. The changes include:
- A new paragraph (B15a) will be inserted into the Award of Costs Circular to advise appeal parties there should generally be no grounds for an award of costs against an LPA where it has refused a planning application that is clearly contrary to a development plan where no material considerations including national policy indicate that planning permission should be granted;
- An additional example will be inserted into paragraph B14 of the Circular to clarify guidance on accurate and truthful information. This would include instances where an appellant has relied on evidence that has been shown to be manifestly inaccurate or untrue. Equally, information the appellant relied on at the time of the planning application should have been accurate and true; and
- The Government will consider carefully the measures that are proposed both in relation to monitoring the views of LPA's on how satisfied they are with the quality and timeliness of the advice provided by key statutory bodies and obtaining a better understanding of the cases that take longer than 21 days to be resolved, with a view to ensuring that the key statutory bodies transparently account for, and improve, their performance.
The consultation closes on the 11 September 2012.
3. Flexibility to the Use Class Order – changes to the Use Classes Order have been published in a Consultation Paper 'New Opportunities for Sustainable Development and Growth through the Reuse of Existing Buildings' which will make it easier for agricultural, retail and commercial buildings to be reused without the need for planning permission. The Government is proposing action in four areas:
i.) To create permitted development rights to assist change of use from existing buildings used for agricultural purposes to uses supporting rural growth;
ii.) To increase the thresholds for permitted development rights for change of use between B1 (business / office) and B8 (storage or distribution) classes and from B2 (industry) to B1 and B8;
iii.) To introduce a permitted development right to allow the temporary use for two years, where the use is low impact, without the need for planning permission; and
iv.) To provide C1 (hotels, boarding and guest houses) permitted development rights to convert to C3 (dwelling house) without the need for planning permission.
The following types of development will be excluded from the General Permitted Development Order because they raise issues requiring further consideration:
- Listed buildings and scheduled monuments;
- Safety hazards zones;
- Development where an Environmental Impact Assessment is required; and
- Development on land affected by contamination.
- The consultation closes on 11 September 2012.
4. A Review of Supporting Planning Guidance – following the publication of the NPPF, the Government will begin to review over 6,000 pages of supporting planning guidance. It is understood the Government will make further announcements on this shortly.
5. Quicker Planning Appeal Decisions – proposals will be released by the Government later this year to streamline the appeals process in an attempt to achieve quicker appeal decisions.
6. Increase in Planning Fees – the Government is proposing to increase the fee for planning applications inline with inflation which will be in the region of 15% since 2008, the last time the planning fee regulations were amended. The Government intends to introduce new fee regulations that would result in the change coming into force in Autumn 2012.
7. Community Infrastructure Levy Changes – changes are being considered to the application of the Community Infrastructure Levy. It is proposed that developers will not have to make two payments for the same development if a planning application is submitted to revise an existing planning consent. The Government is proposing to introduce regulatory changes to improve the operation of the levy in Autumn 2012.
8. Neighbourhood Planning Funding – The Royal Town Planning Institute; the Princes Foundation for Building Community; the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England; and Locality (the Building Communities Consortium) have had their funding extended to April 2013 to enable the organisations to continue to support and advise communities on neighbourhood planning.
The Government has streamlined the planning system through the introduction of the NPPF and the Localism Act and further changes are now proposed.
The Government's aim is to create a simpler, clearer and quicker system for applicants and members of communities to use. The proposed changes to the reduction of unnecessary information required in support of outline planning applications will reduce applicants spiralling costs and changes to the Use Classes Order will help boost the growth of smaller business.
The Government has reduced national planning policy from 1,000 pages to 50 through the NPPF and the proposals to distil an additional 6,000 pages of supporting planning guidance will continue to streamline the plan making and decision making processes.
Developers will also welcome quicker appeal decisions, the proposals to monitor the performance of key statutory bodies and the changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy. There are also incentives for Councils to make planning decisions in accordance with up to date Local Plans through the removal of appeal costs and it is essential to the neighbourhood planning process that the funding continues to enable communities to be guided.
Whilst the increase in the planning fees in line with inflation will reduce the costs to tax payers, it will have a further financial burden on applicants. If this increase in cost is used to enhance LPA resources enabling quicker decision making then this may soften the blow however only time will tell.
- Jon Suckley is associate at HOW Planning in Manchester