The Conservative Party Conference is in full swing this week, and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick took to the podium on Monday to announce the Government's "vision" for reforming the planning system, with an emphasis on measures to "speed up and simplify" the process. We have been here before!
The latest proposals to speed up the planning system include a review of application fees to ensure council planning departments are properly resourced, providing more qualified planners to process applications. On the other hand, the Government is considering the expansion of provisions requiring fees to be refunded if councils take too long to determine specific planning applications.
A planning green paper will be published in November 2019 that will set out the Government's ambition to reduce planning conditions by a third, and will seek views on rights to secure permission to demolish old commercial buildings for new housing via the permission in principle route, revitalising high streets in the process.
Allowing upward extension via permitted development rights has been under consideration for some years. The Government is proposing to expand permitted development rights to allow two-storey upward extensions to purpose built blocks of flats from January 2020, with the intention of applying the right to detached houses in the future to allow growing families to expand their homes without having to move.
The expansion of permitted development rights for blocks of flats will provide opportunities for developers and landowners. Details of the proposals are awaited – there are likely to be limitations on the right and requirements for prior approval, similar to larger household extensions. Critics raise concerns that the proposed change would remove the ability of neighbours to object to poor development that may impinge on their amenity - which contradicts the Government's own attempt to improve design quality and public engagement in the planning process.
This follows Mr Jenrick's simultaneous announcement on Monday of a Government backed National Model Design Code set to be published in the New Year. The aim of the Code is to set out a clear model for promoting a better design and style of homes across the country, shaped by what people want.
The Government has already published a new National Design Guide to support the forthcoming Code. This sets out a blueprint for how local authorities can achieve quality and great design, including recommendations for developers in winning the support of communities based around ensuring new homes are built quicker and better. Councils are encouraged to prepare and implement their own design codes, in line with the national standard, to reflect the setting and character of their local areas.
As with most changes the devil will be in the detail. We will keep track of these developments and provide further updates as they progress.
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