UK: Introducing The Growth And Infrastructure Act 2013

Last Updated: 1 May 2013
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry reports that the Growth and Infrastructure Bill has finally completed its passage through Parliament and will become the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 today.

It pinged and it ponged but the two Houses of Parliament finally agreed on the shares-for-rights provisions, and hence the whole of the Bill, today.  On Tuesday, the government introduced a cooling-off period of seven days that was agreed by the Commons, and yesterday the Bill returned to the Lords to approve that and further amendments that require employers to pay for independent advice to employees considering taking up the shares for rights offer.  There was no further 'Pannick attack' and the Lords comfortably voted against rejecting the amendments by a majority of 107.

Today, the Bill returned to the Commons for the fourth time to approve the amendments, which duly happened given the government's comfortable majority, despite Shadow Business Secretary of State Chuka Umunna describing the clause as a 'mad dog's breakfast'.  The Bill now awaits signature by Her Majesty, which will happen later today, to make it the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 (c. 27).

What the Act does

The final ordering of the sections is quite difficult to determine in advance of the publication of the Act, given all the toing and froing that was based on an old version of the Bill - the hotly-contested 'clause 27' on shares for rights has instantly become section 31, for example.

According to my understanding, here is what the Act does based on the final numbering:

  • Section 1 allows the government to direct that certain planning applications to certain (i.e. poorly-performing) local authorities should be made directly to the Planning Inspectorate instead
  • Sections 2 and 3 expand powers to award costs for planning inquiries
  • *Section 4 allows prior approval of permitted development orders for changes of use and allows the inclusion of neighbour consultations for house extensions
  • Section 5 removes powers to intervene in local development orders before they are adopted
  • Section 6 restricts local authorities to only requiring reasonable additional information relating to planning applications
  • *Section 7 allows section 106 agreements to be modified in relation to their affordable housing provisions
  • Section 8 allows orders to set out criteria for local authorities to be able to dispose of land at less than best value
  • *Section 9 relaxes the rules on telecomms equipment in protected areas such as national parks
  • Section 10 changes the requirements for reviewing old mineral planning permissions
  • Sections 11 to 13 allow stopping up of footpaths etc. to be combined with planning applications
  • * Sections 14 to 17 restrict when town and village green registration applications can be made
  • Sections 18 to 21 make minor ameendments to (non-Planning Act 2008) energy consenting
  • Section 22 removes the need to seek consent under the Planning Act for varying certain approvals received  under previous regimes
  • Section 23 removes the need for certificates under sections 127, 137 and 138 of the Planning Act 2008
  • Sections 24 and 25 reduce the scope of Special Parliamentary Procedure, limiting it to National Trust land, and unreplaced (or unsatisfactorily replaced) open space land unless urgency is proved
  • *Section 26 extends the Planning Act regime, optionally, to certain business and commercial projects
  • Section 27 replaces the existing provisions about including road tolling in development consent orders
  • Section 28 amends the Mayor of London's planning delegation powers
  • Sections 29 and 30 delay the revaluation of business rates for two years
  • Section 31 introduces the shares-for-rights provision for employees
  • Sections 32 to 36 are typical procedural provisions at the end of an Act

Points to note

None of the Act is stand-alone - it only amends other Acts.  It will thus never be referred to as legislation itself, other than when referring to another Act and saying 'as amended by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013'.  For Planning Act aficionados it is thus getting increasingly important not to use copies of the Act or regulations as originally drafted, as the regime has now been amended about a dozen times, sometimes quite substantially.

The provisions on house extensions and circumscribing shares for rights were drafted and added at the very last minute.  Note to future self: check whether such last-minute provisions cause more problems in implementation than other provisions.

The sections with an asterisk above come into effect today, although that doesn't mean much in relation to business and commercial projects, since only projects 'of a prescribed description' can make use of the new power and no description has yet been prescribed (i.e. in regulations, coming 'soon').

The sections with a dagger above will automatically come into effect on 25 June, being two months after royal assent (village green provisions are a bit of both now and in two months). The remainder will come into effect at a time of the government's choosing, by means of 'commencement orders'.

Given that last point, we must await the terms of the commencement orders for the Planning Act reforms and their timing before we know for sure which projects they will apply to.

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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