UK: DCLG Technical Consultation On Planning

Last Updated: 20 November 2014
Article by Caroline McDade

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

This was a wide ranging consultation document issued in July 2014 on potential further improvements to the planning system. The consultation draft presented a number of proposals for how the Government wants to improve the planning system, to make it more responsive, more straight forward and less confusing. The consultation period has closed but the main proposals and measures are summarised below. The Government's response is due before the end of year.

The main proposals and measures are:

  • To make Neighbourhood Plan designations easier and reduce statutory consultation requirements.
  • More opportunity to change some existing high street uses to residential. Relaxation of retail mezzanine restrictions. Extension of office to resi regime beyond May 2016 but with an added protection test for 'the most strategically important office accommodation' rather than the use of Article 4 directions.
  • Improving the use of planning conditions through the introduction of a deemed discharge of pre-commencement conditions and a requirement to share draft conditions before planning decisions are made.
  • Increasing the threshold for involvement of Highways Agency and Natural England, streamlining English Heritage's powers and reducing consultation if issues have been addressed at pre-application stage.
  • Raising the requirement threshold for screening for Environmental Impact Assessment.
  • Streamlining the consenting process for material and non-material changes to Development Consent Orders for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).

A more detailed review of the proposals:

Neighbourhood Planning

Proposals for Neighbourhood Plans or Orders (including Community Right to Build) include:

  • Proposing a 10 week (70 day) statutory time limit within which a local authority must decide whether to designate a neighbourhood area,
  • Removing the statutory requirement for 6 weeks consultation for Neighbourhood Plans and replacing this with a more basic requirement for "robust" consultation,
  • New Regulation that Plans must be accompanied by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA),
  • Longer term intention for neighbourhood areas to be automatically designated if a local authority does not make a decision.

Extending Permitted Development Rights

The key proposals include:

i) Extending the ability to allow offices to be converted into new homes permanently beyond  the May 2016 'expiry' date but with an added protection test for 'the most strategically important office accommodation' rather than the use of Article 4 directions. 

ii) Alongside this, allowing the creation of homes in buildings used for light industry (B1(c)), and warehousing (B8).

iii) Launderettes, casinos, nightclubs and amusement arcades will also be able to change to residential use (subject to certain prior approval requirement).  

iv) Widen the Use Class A1 to cover financial and professional services.  Payday loan and betting shops would remain A2.

v) Permitting the change of use to the wider retail (A1) class from betting shops and pay day loan shops, restaurants and cafés (A3), drinking establishments (A4) and hot food takeaways (A5).

vi) Supporting the ability of retailers to expand certain functions without planning permission, such as to accommodate click and collect, and address servicing and parking within the curtilage of shops. 

Planning Conditions

Proposed measures include:

i) Deemed discharge for certain conditions where the local authority does not make a timely decision e.g. 6 weeks. Exempt conditions would include development requiring Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), in areas of high flood risk, reserved matters, and where a legal agreement to be entered in to.

ii) Sharing draft conditions between local authorities and applicants as good practice for major development.

iii) Local authorities to justify the use of pre-commencement conditions in writing.

Statutory Consultation

i) Increased threshold for the involvement of the Highways Agency and Natural England.

ii) Streamlined requirement to consult with English Heritage.

iii) Removing English Heritage's power of direction in London.

iv) Reducing the need to consult with statutory consultees if issues have been addressed at pre-application stage.

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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