Planning Briefing Paper – March 2017
The House of Commons Library published a useful Briefing Paper titled "Planning Reform Proposals" on Wednesday, 8 March. The paper draws together the key planning reform measures taken and proposed since election of the Conservative Government back in May 2015 - which anyone in planning or a related industry sector will know is no small feat.
Across four chapters, the paper summarises key Government publications, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, and policy proposals not yet in legislation. The paper identifies all of the discrete planning measures in the Housing White Paper with links to commentary from interested bodies. It provides an update on which parts of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 have entered force and which have not, before discussing in particular depth those provisions with further proposals or regulation is expected. There is also a useful summary of what the Neighbourhood Planning Bill seeks to accomplish in the planning sphere, plus the amendments achieved so far by the Committees and the House of Lords.
The paper then closes with a review of the extensive commitments which have been made by the Government but not yet introduced. These include:
- S106 contributions – the Government intends to introduce a dispute resolution mechanism for s106 agreements to speed up negotiations and provisions have been included in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 but these have not yet come into force. It is unlikely that any further action will be taken until the Government has finished its review of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) so that the reforms of the s106 will be dealt with in tandem with CIL. Announcements are expected now in the Autumn Budget.
- CIL – in November 2015 the Government commissioned an independent review of CIL. The Government published its final report in February 2017. This put forward a number of options for reform and the Government will make its announcement at the Autumn Budget.
- Upward Extensions – the Housing White Paper proposed amendments to avoid low density building and further amendments are to be considered to address scope for higher density in urban locations well served by public transport.
- Starter Homes – the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is to be changed to allow more brownfield land to be released with a higher proportion of starter homes and confirm that starter homes will be acceptable on rural exception sites.
- Brownfield Land – there will be a change in policy to introduce a presumption that brownfield land within settlements will be suitable for housing.
- Completion Notices – legislation will be amended to remove the requirement for the Secretary of State to confirm a completion notice and to allow a local authority to serve a completion notice where token works have been made to keep a permission alive.
- Green Belt - the NPPF will be amended to allow authorities to change Green Belt boundaries.
- Developer's Track Record – the Government is seeking views on whether an applicant's track record of delivering housing (as opposed to land banking) should be taken into account.
- Basement Development – on 4 November the Government published a paper asking for evidence on the number of basement developments being carried out and any adverse impacts. The consultation closed on 16 December and a Government response is now awaited which may result in changes to basement legislation.
- Poor Performance – the ability to apply direct to the Secretary of State for major developments rather than a poor performing LPA was extended within the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to allow for non-major developments. The Government's Explanatory Memorandum published in November 2016 set out the intended designation thresholds for expected speed of decisions. A quality threshold for overturned appeals of 10% will also be introduced but not until early 2018.
In summary, there continues to be a veritable cornucopia of changes for us all to keep abreast of and the Autumn Budget is going to be a significant milestone in relation to many of the proposed changes and the direction that the Government will be taking going forward.