Queen’s Speech 2016—a new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill

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Planning analysis: The Queen’s Speech 2016 sets out proposals for a new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill, including privatising the Land Registry.

In an article published by Lexis PSL, Sophie Flax, solicitor at Blake Morgan LLP says that it is clear that the government has been influenced by a desire to support the development industry in its plans.

What are the main planning related topics of the Bill?

The main planning proposals are:

  • neighbourhood planning—to make the local government duty to support groups more transparent and improve the process for reviewing and updating plans
  • planning conditions—to introduce measures to tackle the excessive use of pre-commencement conditions which can hold up development
  • compulsory purchase—to make the compulsory purchase order (CPO) process clearer, fairer and faster
  • a National Infrastructure Commission (NIC)—to establish the independent NIC on a statutory basis
  • reforming the Land Registry—to enable the privatisation of the Land Registry for the delivery of a modern, digitally-based land registration service

Is there anything in the Bill that could be potentially controversial or could have unintended consequences?

The intention to strengthen the local government role in supporting neighbourhood groups in bringing forward neighbourhood plans must be properly resourced. There is already huge pressure on local planning authorities to bring forward their local plans before early 2017. This deadline has been strengthened by the government’s new intervention powers where local planning authorities are failing to deliver within this deadline, as set out in sections 143–148 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

Another key feature of the Bill that could be of concern is the future of the Land Registry. Intentions to privatise the Land Registry must protect the right to access information by the public. The Land Registry is an essential service for all kinds of interests within the industry. The private ownership of a public register must be carefully controlled.

What will happen next? What is the predicted timeframe?

A draft Bill will be published for consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. It will then be introduced formally in the House of Lords or the House of Commons. It will have three readings in each House. Each House must then consider the other’s amendments. The Bill may go back and forth between each House until both Houses reach agreement on the exact wording of the bill—this is known as ‘ping pong’. When the exact wording has been agreed by both Houses, the bill is ready for Royal Assent. Timeframes become clearer as the draft Bill progresses.

Is there anything that planning lawyers should take particular note of/that they should discuss with their clients at this stage?

As expected, following extensive lobbying by the property industry the Bill will include provisions to make the compulsory purchase regime ‘clearer, fairer and faster’. The aim is to establish a statutory framework for agreeing compensation, based on the principle that compensation should be based on the market value of the land.

Clients with schemes which involve the use of CPO powers, or landowners whose land is earmarked for CPO, should be advised that these changes are on the horizon. These changes could prove of benefit to them, but until there is more meat on the bones of this Bill it is not possible to advise yet on the implications of the changes.

Are the proposals in the Bill in line with the trends in these areas? What are your predictions for the future?

The Bill is in line with the government’s aims to boost development and infrastructure, enable development to pass more quickly through the system once planning permission has been granted, and with its localism agenda.

In order to understand the real implications of these changes we need to wait to see what is in the draft Bill. Even then, there is a long way to go before this new Bill gains Royal Assent, and we have the Act itself.

Although it is early days, it is clear that the government has been influenced by a desire to support the development industry. Whether the intended principles will translate to the final legislation which emerges, we shall have to wait and see.

Interviewed by Anne Bruce. This article was originally posted by Lexis PSL. 

See the original article on Lexis PSL here.