UK: 456: Two More Planning Act 2008 Guidance Documents Finalised

Last Updated: 11 June 2013
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry reports on the publication of finalised replacement guidance on application forms and fees.

A suite of seven guidance documents produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) accompanies the Planning Act regime.  There is also a set of advice notes produced by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

The original set of seven guidance documents is gradually being replaced by a new set of six, following a consultation known as the 'light touch review' that took place a year ago.  Until yesterday, final versions of three of the guidance documents had been published, and yesterday two more were.  That only leaves guidance on compulsory purchase, which is expected in the 'summer' (which I hope refers to traditional timings rather than any threshold of temperature).

The guidance that has been finalised already, with links to the relevant blog posts is as follows:

The guidance that was finalised yesterday is as follows:

Most of the changes requested by the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA) have been addressed at least in part.  Here is an analysis.

Application form guidance

As the name suggests, this guidance is to assist project promoters with filling in the 25-box application form that is to accompany their application.  There is some general guidance and then Part 2 goes through each of the boxes on the form.

You should read the general guidance (although promoters of road and rail projects can look away now).  For example, paragraph 4 suggests you put anything required by the relevant National Policy Statement into Box 4, but the Box 4 guidance doesn't mention this.

The general guidance also explicitly states that the different types of plans can be combined as long as they remain clear, but still requires separate land and works plans (paragraph 7).  That should save some paper and cross-eyed affected parties.

More generally, 'the submission of duplicate documents and information should be avoided' (paragraph 10), which is also welcome.  For example, it should suffice to reference plans in the Environmental Statement rather than produce separate ecological and heritage sites plans (as long as they are referenced precisely enough and are of a sufficient standard in the ES).  Indeed this is explicitly mentioned at paragraph 35.  The flood risk assessment is also in this category.

The need for an electronic index (a posh term for a spreadsheet) is mentioned at paragraph 11, which is useful, since PINS like it and it isn't mentioned on the application form or in the regulations.

The box on the application form for associated development is still there (box 7), although I'm not sure where it comes from. Note: if you are in Wales, leave this box empty.

Finally, the 'other consents' box (box 24) is also there.  The guidance suggests that applicants say if other consents are not likely to be granted.  I wouldn't have thought that it was a good idea to be in that position.

Fees guidance

The guidance is short - nine paragraphs of main guidance - and reflects the changes to the calculation of fees for examinations.  The government sort of denies that they are changes, saying that they are not intended to require any change in Planning Inspectorate practice (paragraph 9) but they are.  I agree that they will not lead to any change in PINS practice - careful wording, perhaps - but that's because the regulations have been brought in line with the practice rather than that they have no effect.

I think the guidance has a slight error in it because it says that the pre-examination fee is charged when an application is accepted for examination (paragraph 4) and is based on the number of inspectors.  The second part is right but the first part isn't, because the inspectors are not appointed until a couple of months after that, after the representation period - depending in part on the number of representations received.

Indeed five inspectors were appointed yesterday for the Thames Tideway Tunnel examination, and the application was accepted for examination on 27 March.  They will not have been charged this fee yet, but should be writing a cheque for £43,000 shortly.

Appendix A is pretty much an 'explanatory note' of the fees regulations, and at Appendix B DCLG has reinstated some worked examples.  These were in the previous guidance but dropped in the revised draft.  What's more, they are based on real examples now, which were not available before.  There are seven in the case of a single inspector, five for three inspectors, and just one for more than three.  We can thus deduce that EDF Energy was charged £565,660 for its application for Hinkley Point C. Oof.

So the light touch review is now 5/6ths complete, clearing the way for the heavy touch '2014 review' of whole of the Planning Act regime.

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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Angus Walker
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