In August 2020, the Government published a White Paper for consultation entitled "Planning for the Future". In the foreword by the Prime Minister, it promises to be "radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the second world war". If all of the changes consulted on are ultimately implemented, it will result in a fundamentally different planning system. The key proposed reforms are as follows:
1. Introducing a binding housing requirement that local planning authorities would be required to deliver through their local development plan.
2. Development management policies to be introduced to the National Planning Policy Framework, and not replicated in Local Plans, which would instead focus on allocation and "annotation" of land by type and rules on scale, mix and design. All land to be categorised as part of a "growth" area (suitable for substantial development and benefiting from automatic outline planning permission), "renewal" area (suitable for development, and benefiting from a presumption in favour of development), or a "protected" area (restricting development on land such as Green Belt, AONB, National Parks, etc).
3. A 30 month maximum length for the plan-making process, with a single stage combining public consultation and submission for examination. The test of "soundness" is to be replaced with a single "sustainable development" test, with no Sustainability Appraisal, Strategic Environmental Assessment or Duty to Cooperate between neighbouring authorities.
4. The quality of development given "outline permission" in a Local Plan is to be controlled by use of masterplans and design guides.
5. A number of reforms to the planning application process to allow swifter decision-making. For "growth" areas, detailed consent would be obtained by either a reserved matters process, a local development order, or use of the Development Consent Order regime. In "renewal" areas, there would be a mix of automatic consents for certain defined uses, subject to technical design compliance, and the option of local development orders. In "protected" areas, a planning application (as currently the case) would be required. This remains an option for other areas too.
6. The sanctions on authorities who fail to determine applications within the statutory time-frame are to be toughened (including possible deemed consents, or automatic rebate of the application fee). There is also a proposal for all decisions on detailed matters to be delegated to officers.
7. A requirement for environmental "net gain" rather than "no net harm".
8. Consolidation of CIL and planning obligations into a single infrastructure levy that would be nationally set as a percentage of development value, be paid at point of occupation (not commencement of development), cover all use classes and development above a certain threshold, and include affordable housing and other planning obligation contributions. The aim is to ensure greater on-site affordable housing provision as payment in kind.
Of course, these reforms remain simply consultation proposals at this stage. At Kingsley Smith, we remain fully on top of all the recent and proposed changes, so that we can be in a position to provide the most effective and up-to-date advice to you on the best way forward.
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