The Government finally issued the long awaited Planning Bill on 11 May repackaged as "The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill" ("LURB"). The LURB covers a wide range of proposals or "missions" for levelling-up the country as well as planning reforms.
It is an impressive 338 pages long and is not one for casual perusal over a cup of tea. Instead, if a thorough understanding is wanted, it is recommended that not only is a copy of the Bill itself to hand but also the accompanying Explanatory Notes and the Government's Information Policy Paper entitled "Further Information". Links to each of these document is provided below. However, to cut down the amount of time needed to be spent with a cold towel round your head, we have summarised six of the key planning changes in England that developers should be aware of:
1. Changes to Development Plans
- New National Development Management Policies ("NDMP") will be introduced to set out national policies on development ( such as heritage and green belt policies). Planning applications will need to be made in accordance with both the development plan and the new national development management policies "unless material considerations strongly indicate otherwise".
- Much simpler local plans will need to be re-drawn within an agreed timetable with policies that are specific to the local planning authority's area that do not overlap with the NDMP.
- A new requirement for all local planning authorities will be to ensure there is a policies map that incorporates all elements of the development plan.
- A local planning authority must ensure that either the local plan or a supplementary plan includes a local design code for the area which will need to be met before planning permission for development is granted.
- The LURB will give more weight to neighbourhood plans in decision-making and allow for specific design and affordable housing requirements. There are also provisional street voting powers. Street votes would allow residents to bring forward proposals to extend or redevelop properties on existing residential streets but these powers are subject to further Parliamentary scrutiny.
2. New Infrastructure Levy
- The LURB introduces a single Infrastructure Levy ("IL") to replace the current Community Infrastructure Levy ("CIL") ( other than Mayoral CIL). The approach to collection to IL will be broadly similar to CIL but the main difference is that the charging rate will be based on a percentage of gross development value.
- IL will be subject to detailed regulations including how local charging rates will be sent and what infrastructure will be covered but it is anticipated that IL will include affordable housing.
- S106 agreements will continue but in a narrower form dealing primarily with delivery on-site infrastructure such as play areas. There will also be scope for larger schemes to deliver in-kind infrastructure in lieu of a monetary payment.
- The new IL will be rolled out gradually.
3. Planning Enforcement
- The time period in which local planning authorities can take enforcement action against unauthorised developments will be extended from 4 years to 10 years.
- Councils will be given a new power to issue an enforcement warning notice where they become aware of a unauthorised development that has a reasonable prospect of being acceptable. The enforcement warning notice can invite the person concerned to submit a retrospective planning application within a specified period.
- S174 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 ("TCPA") relating to enforcement appeals is amended to allow only one opportunity to obtain planning permission retrospectively after unauthorised development has taken place.
4. New power to vary planning permissions
- In light of recent case law, the LURB introduces a new clause 73B into the TCPA to allow more flexibility to vary non-substantial changes to planning permissions (including to the description of development). This will enable changes to be made to planning permissions which are not possible under the existing framework without the submission of multiple applications either under S73 (to vary the condition) or S96A (to amend the description).
5. Commencement Notices
- A new duty will be brought in requiring a developer to serve a commencement notice (CN) before development has begun on a site. It requires a proposed date for commencement of works to be specified in advance and in the event of failure to comply, the local planning authority will have a power to require the information requested in the CN by serving notice.
6. Completion notices
- Currently, a completion notice can only take effect once it has
first been approved by the Secretary of State. It can also only be
served after the deadline for commencement of a planning permission
( typically 3 years). The LURB will remove the need for Secretary
of State approval and also allow a completion notice to be served
before the deadline for commencement of a planning permission has
passed (so long as development has commenced).
We await regulations for details of many of the proposed changes and the Bill of course has only just begun its journey through Parliament so we need to bear in mind that provisions may well be changed before the LURB receives Royal Assent.
For more information, please read Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: explanatory notes and Levelling Up and Regeneration: further information.
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.