The beginning of the end for pre-commencement conditions?
Consultation is underway on draft regulations which seek to create an exemption to a local planning authority's need to obtain the applicant's written agreement to a pre-commencement condition.
Conditions can be a useful tool for a local planning authority to control development. However, developers can find themselves encumbered by a myriad of conditions that they must discharge before they are allowed to even commence development. This is often a costly and time-consuming process, with housebuilders facing a ticking clock to comply before their planning permission runs out.
In order to ease the strain on both developers and local authorities, the Government introduced a new section to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Section 100ZA prohibits a local planning authority from granting planning permission that is subject to a pre-commencement condition without the applicant's consent. However, regulations have now been drafted which provide an exception to this.
A local planning authority will be able to issue a notice to an applicant of its proposed pre-commencement condition and if the applicant does not respond within ten working days, the applicant will be deemed to have given consent. Thus a local planning authority will be able to impose pre-commencement conditions without an applicant's express approval.
On the other hand, if the applicant does respond to the notice within ten working days, the local planning authority cannot grant the permission with the proposed conditions without the applicant's consent. It will accordingly be important for developers to heed the strict timetable which the Government has justified as necessary in order to avoid "undue delay".
Commentators have so far responded positively to the regulations, although it should be noted that the regulations will only apply to what are known as pure pre-commencement conditions on the grant of full planning permissions.
The impact of the regulations may well play an important part in the Government's aims to speed up delivery of housing. However, if it becomes common practice for applicants to disagree to proposed pre-commencement conditions we may simply end up with a larger number of refusals and appeals.
The consultation paper can be found here.