Planning Reform and the March 2014 Budget
On 19 March 2014, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, delivered the Budget. The proposals regarding pensions and savings grabbed the majority of the headlines. Unlike previous years there was actually relatively few planning reforms put forward, and these include:
- A review of the permitted development regime (being development which is permitted without the need for a planning application) with the introduction of a three tier approach using permitted development rights for small-scale changes, prior approval rights for development requiring consideration of specific issues, and planning permission for the largest scale development.
- As part of the review of permitted development rights, the Government will consult on specific change of use measures, including greater flexibilities for change to residential use, for example from warehouses and light industry structures, and allowing businesses greater flexibilities to expand facilities such as car parks, loading bays and non-retail facilities within existing boundaries, where there is little impact on local communities.
- In relation to Judicial Review, a new Planning Court will be launched on 6 April 2014 to fast-track disputes, including big construction projects.
- The creation of a £500m Builders Finance Fund which will provide loans to developers to unlock 15,000 housing units currently stalled because of financial problems.
- A £150m fund to help kick-start the regeneration of large housing estates as well as a £150m repayable fund to provide plots for custom builders.
Interestingly only a few days after the delivery of the Budget, the Government announced a consultation on the performance of Local Planning Authorities as well as a review of affordable housing contributions within Section 106 Agreements. The consultation proposes an increase in the threshold that is used to designate an Authority as underperforming, which in turn may allow greater numbers of applicants to bypass Local Planning Authorities and apply direct to the Secretary of State. With regards to affordable housing contributions, it is proposed that such contributions would not be required for sites of 10 units or less and a combined maximum gross floor space of 1,000 square metres. This would affect a significant number of Local Authorities who have lower affordable housing thresholds and represents a further example of the Government's policy of reducing the requirement for affordable housing (despite the need for such housing) in order to stimulate development. The consultation closes on 4 May 2014.
Overall, the proposals within the Budget and the more recent consultation appear to be focussed on assisting the delivery of small scale housing sites and self-build projects, which perhaps have stalled over recent years.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.