UK: Planning Act Blog 227: Analysis Of 2011 Budget For Infrastructure Planning

Last Updated: 31 March 2011
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 227, published on 24 March 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry reports on planning measures in the 2011 Budget.

While the headlines on yesterday's budget were about fuel duty, behind the tax measures there were a raft of announcements about reform of the planning system, some old, some new.

The details can be found at paragraphs 2.4-2.38 of the document Plan for Growth starting on page 43, but here are the highlights.

National Policy Statements

Of immediate interest to blog readers is an update on when National Policy Statements are expected to be published and finalised. At last we have a date for the National Networks (road and rail) NPS.

  • The Ports NPS (already consulted upon) is to be laid for approval in September, designated by October.
  • The National Networks NPS is to be published in December 2011, designated by December 2012.
  • The Waste water NPS (already consulted upon) is to be laid for approval in July, designated in July.
  • The Hazardous waste NPS to be published in May, designated by March 2012.
  • There is to be no Airports NPS, but an Aviation Policy Framework is to be published for consultation on 31 March.

Given the events in Japan, the government will make a statement about the six energy NPSs as soon as the situation there has 'clarified' (and the nuclear one at least will wait until after the Weightman Report in mid May). No mention of a Water Supply NPS, which may mean it is off the table for the moment.

Presumption of sustainable development

Peppered throughout the document is the promised introduction of a presumption of sustainable development, but the detail states that this will not be immediate. A draft text of the presumption will be published for comments in May, with a view to incorporating it into the National Planning Policy Framework, which is due to be finalised by the end of this year.

The draft will be interesting - at the moment there is a presumption of approving planning applications that fit in with national and local planning policies. If a development can be shown to be sustainable but conflicts with planning policy, will the new presumption override this or not?

Neighbourhood planning

A change is suggested that will presumably be effected through amendments to the Localism Bill, namely that businesses will be able to promote neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders. These are a new level of planning below local authorities introduced by the Bill, currently restricted to local people rather than businesses.

A business park having its own planning policies may well be a driver to growth, but what happens if people and businesses overlap? We shall see. This was actually something that several of the witnessess from the business community requested at the committee of MPs examining the Localism Bill.

Local enterprise partnerships

The government is creating 21 new 'Enterprise Zones' with lighter planning controls and no business rates. Eleven were announced and the remaining 10 will be subject to a competitive bidding process. The eleven that were announced are to be in the areas of eleven Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and it will be for them to decide the boundaries for (some already announced as below), namely

  • Birmingham and Solihull,
  • The Black Country,
  • Derby & Derbyshire with Nottingham & Nottinghamshire (Boots campus),
  • Greater Manchester (Manchester Airport),
  • Leeds City Region,
  • Liverpool City Region (Mersey Waters),
  • London (Royal Docks),
  • North Eastern,
  • Sheffield City Region,
  • Tees Valley and
  • West of England.

Further roles for the currently roleless LEPs are apparently being discussed by the government, including charging them with the production of strategic plans. Watch this space.

Other planning measures

The government is abolishing the target that 60% of new residential development must be on brownfield (i.e. previously developed) land compared with greenfield (i.e. not previously developed) land. It adds that protected land such as the green belt and National Parks will continue to be as protected (despite a recent OECD report complaining about green belts restrricting housing supply). This is 'localising choice', apparently.

The government is going to develop a system of land auctions, using some local authority land as a model for this.

The government is going to consult on allowing changes of use from three commercial types of land use (B1, B2, and B8) to residential use (C3) without needing a planning application. Although this is a plan for growth, won't this particular measure reduce the land available for business? It may be in response to criticism of the abolition of regional housing targets.

In an effort to speed up what Eric Pickles recently called the 'drag anchor' of the planning system, a 'planning service guarantee' is to be introduced whereby all applications will be decided including appeals (if made in timely fashion) within 12 months of being made. That should be welcome to many and a challenge to the Planning Inspectorate.

In an effort to simplify matters further, there is to be a consultation in the autumn on streamlining planning applications by not requiring so much accompanying documentation..

Written statement

Planning minister Greg Clark also issued a written statement which planning authorities should treat as a material consideration (as will the government in any appeals, call-ins etc.). It says that applications that aid economic recovery and secure sustainable growth should be treated favourably, and that existing s106 agreements that developers say make schemes unviable should be revisited.

We will no doubt see references to 'the 23 March 2011 statement' appearing in planning statements accompanying applications in due course.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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