Five planning system changes you need to know about
At becg, we have identified five changes coming to the planning system that every developer should know about.
1. Councils to be punished for losing too many appeals
The Government currently punishes Local councils that take too long deciding too many planning applications. In the future, councils will also be punished if too many decisions are overturned at appeal. The Secretary of State may even take away their planning powers and exercise them himself.
The proposal is to trigger this if more than 10% of major applications to a council in one year are refused and then overturned on appeal. This maybe a strong incentive to councils not to turn down major applications without very good reason.
2. Planning fees to rise…and rise again
Planning fees charged by local authorities are going to increase by 20% next year and the Government is proposing a further 20% increase shortly after that.
3. Councils may be punished if too few homes are built each year
Councils are likely to start facing a “delivery test”. Have they actually delivered enough of the housing they’re meant to? A council that delivers under 95% of the homes in its Local Plan will be marked as a “fail”. These councils will need to have an action plan to sort it out. Under 85% is “fail+”.
Under 25% and developers can ignore the local plan, allowing them to build pretty much anything anywhere (within reason). This will be a strong incentive for councils to work with developers both to deliver planning permissions and unblock builds.
4. New “Statement of Common Ground” coming soon
The Government will soon ask Councils to develop a “Statement of Common Ground”. Similar to the current “Duty to Co-operate”, it will be one statement that every council in a Housing Market Area (HMA) will have to sign up to. It’s unclear how this will work in practice, or what will happen if one council refuses to sign up to a statement agreed by all the others.
5. Housing numbers are changing
The Government recently proposed a fixed methodology for generating housing numbers for Local Plans (the “Objectively Assessed Need” or OAN). Planners have generally welcomed it, but there are concerns. It will increase the North-South divide and may not meet the need for affordable and social housing. There is also a worry about how it will work where an authority wants to build more homes than the new numbers propose. The Government may end up punishing Councils for being ambitious.
And if all that wasn’t enough, a revised NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) will be introduced in early 2018, without Parliamentary scrutiny. There may be major changes. Councils will need to agree the Statements of Common Ground (SCGs) we mentioned above within six months of its publication. That feels like a very optimistic timetable for what might be complex and fraught negotiations between councils who have not previously worked together.
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