The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013

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Good news for landowners and developers

In its attempts to stimulate growth in the economy through real estate development, the Government has pushed through the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 which received royal assent just before parliament went into recess in April. It contains a number of measures that benefit developers, by curtailing opportunities for objectors to try to use the Town or Village Green route to frustrate the planning process, and by accelerating the statutory procedure by which roads and footpaths can be diverted or stopped up entirely to facilitate a development.

Making it harder to obtain a Town or Village Green registration

Section 16 of the Act, which came into force on 25th April but only applies in England, prevents the valid submission of an application for registration of land as a town or village green once a planning application, or a draft local development or neighbourhood plan that identifies the land for potential development, has been first publicised.

These and a few other "trigger events" are counterbalanced by "termination events", such as the withdrawal or final refusal of a planning application, or the removal of the land from a local, development, or neighbourhood plan, after which the ability to apply to register the land as a town or village green is revived, and any qualifying periods that support the application, are restored. The full list of trigger and termination events is set out in a schedule to the Act.

Whilst this will be welcomed by developers, it will disappoint those seeking to protect their neighbourhood's open space but, whichever side of the argument you are on, its unquestionable benefit is that it introduces an element of certainty to the process.

Accelerating the process of diverting or stopping up public rights of way

Until now, it has not been possible to make an application to stop up or divert a public right of way until planning permission for the development that can be carried out only if the stopping up or diversion order is made has itself already been granted. The effect of this has been that developments that had been through the planning process could not be started until the necessary orders had been made, which was not only inherently inefficient in terms of delay but also gave objectors one final stab, outside the planning process, at preventing an unwelcome development.

Highways (Section 247) and public footpaths and bridleways (Section 257) have always been dealt with separately under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, but the effect of Sections 11 and 12 of the 2013 Act will be that applications for stopping up or diversion orders will be able to run concurrently with a related planning application, with any order made being confirmed only if and when the planning permission has been granted.

There is no change to the procedure that must be followed, or the criteria that must be satisfied, for a stopping up or diversion order to be made, so this acceleration of the process must be welcomed. The only curiosities are that these two Sections will not come into force until 25th June 2013, an unexplained delay of two months, and that the provisions that relate to footpaths and bridleways apply to England only.