Government looks at cutting further red tape in planning system

Brandon Lewis MP, the new Housing and Planning Minister, has published a consultation on measures which are designed to make the planning system work more efficiently and effectively.

Planning Conditions

Residential developers will be keen to read of proposals in the consultation aimed at improving the use of planning conditions and enabling development to start more quickly on site after planning permission is granted. The consultation, for example, provides further details on the 'deemed discharge' of planning conditions, which is currently being debated in Parliament as part of the Infrastructure Bill.

Under the proposals a developer may serve a notice on the local authority six weeks after they have applied for the discharge of a condition, and that the condition will be deemed to have been discharged if they receive no response within two weeks. There would be a number of conditions that would be exempted from the deemed discharge provisions:

  • Development which is subject to an EIA assessment
  • Development which is likely to have a significant effect on a qualifying European site
  • Development in areas of high flood risk
  • Conditions that have the effect of requiring a s106 or s278 agreement prior to commencement
  • Any conditions requiring the approval of details for outline planning permissions required by reserved matters

There are plans to share draft conditions with applicants for major development before a decision is made. Planning authorities will also be required to provide written justification as to why pre-commencement conditions cannot be dealt with after development has commenced.

EIA Screening

There are proposals to raise the screening threshold for Environmental Impact Assessments ("EIAs") for residential development. Schemes below 150 homes would be excluded and this is expected to reduce the number of screenings from around 1,600 to about 300 per year.

Permitted Development Rights

There are further extensions and tweaks proposed to permitted development rights. The government is proposing to introduce a new permitted development right to allow light industrial buildings (B1(c)) and distribution buildings (B8) to change to residential (C3) use. On high streets it is proposed that certain sui generis uses (casinos, nightclubs, laundrettes etc.) be given permitted development rights to be converted into residential (C3) use. The government is consulting on extending the right to convert from office (B1) to residential (C3) for a further three years from 2016 to 2019.

Other Changes

Other measures include imposing a time limit of 70 days on local authorities to deal with applications for neighbourhood area status. The government is also looking to streamline the process of seeking views from statutory consultees on planning applications and reducing the number of applications requiring input from English Heritage, Natural England and the Highways Agency.

The consultation closes on 26 September 2014 and further information is available here.

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