Local Government Committee Slams Planning Law Policy

The Communities and Local Government Committee has slammed planning law policy, in a move that could lead to restrictions being imposed on planning change of use.


Image by Andrew Rivett

Ultimately, the committee has actually praised the goal of the National Planning Policy Framework, that of sustainable development and increased housing. The problems they had were with the specific details of the plan. For example, the committee came down against current planning permission rules, which enable shops and offices to be converted without planning permission.

Objections To The National Planning Policy Framework

Conservationists have objected to the National Planning Policy Framework, or NPPF, as a so-called "developer's charter". They mean by this that it allows developers too much power to act without paying attention to the local community or the wishes of conservationists.

The reforms are in theory locally-led and community-focussed, but opponents have drawn attention to multiple problems that they perceive with the reforms:

  • Too little emphasis on the natural environment, too much emphasis on economic concerns.
  • Local High Streets aren't sufficiently protected from big out-of-town developments.
  • Not enough local planning authorities have plans in place under the framework, leaving them vulnerable and without a clear official strategic direction.
  • 41% of local planning authorities do not have a local plan for development.
  • A loophole exists where developers may challenge the suitability of certain sites in order to gain planning permission on other sites.
  • Small shops and banks becoming houses without planning permission empties local High Streets and removes commercial opportunity.
  • Local infrastructure is challenged by the change of use rules, especially roads and hospitals.

The Committee seems to be suggesting, mostly, that the relaxed rules on change of use to housing is hurting local commercial enterprise and rendering local governments more powerless if they don't have a local plan for development.

Increased Housing Development

Part of the purpose of the NPPF is to address housing issues. Specifically, Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has pointed to 240,000 homes built in the past year, which he claims are due to the framework. Housing has been a key focus of the coalition government, which has also worked on re-introducing garden cities as a potential solution.

Permitted development rules are already complicated, especially with regard to change of use, which is why we offer change of use related services.

Mr. Lewis emphasised further the need for local planning authorities to get a local development plan in place.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Let us know what your thoughts are on this planning law news at @planning_lawyer on Twitter.