The 2011 Budget - Planning reform

The Budget states that the "planning system has held back investment and created distortions in the way that businesses compete, deterring development and growth". 

In order to address this, the Coalition Government has proposed within the Budget the following measures:

1. A new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to appropriate development is "yes". 

The government will publish further details in May 2011, including how this will be integrated into national planning policy. However, the premise behind this measure is that Local Planning Authorities will be required to accept applications that comply with the current plans and national planning policies. How this is actually different to what is currently in place remains to be seen.

2. Localise the choice for the use of previously developed land, removing nationally imposed targets while retaining existing controls on greenbelt land. 

It is the stance of the Government that nationally imposed targets have led to increased land prices, that has in turn limited the supply of new residential development.

3. Within the next 12 months introduce a pilot land auction model, starting with public sector land. 

The Budget Report contains no details of the proposed pilot scheme but it is suggested that it will involve local authorities inviting landowners to submit a binding price at which the landowner would be willing, for a fixed period of time, to sell their plot of land. The local authority would have the right to buy that plot at the set price, grant planning permission, and then auction the land and keep any increase in the sale price.

4. A number of measures are proposed to streamline the development control process removing bureaucracy from the system and speeding it up. 

This will include a 12 month "planning service guarantee" for the processing of all planning applications, including any appeals, expanding permitted development rights to include further types of minor commercial development, and a further package of measures to streamline the information required to support planning applications. Consultation on these further measures is expected to have been completed by autumn 2011.

5. A fast-track planning process for major infrastructure applications of 12 months from the start of the inquiry to the decision. 

This will involve the transfer of responsibilities for major infrastructure applications from the Infrastructure Planning Commission to the "democratically accountable" Major Infrastructure Planning Unit within the Planning Inspectorate. It must however be noted that a significant number of National Policy Statements that form the basis for planning policy within the major infrastructure application process (relating for example to Energy, Ports, Hazardous Waste etc) have not yet been designated, and may not be approved until well into 2012. 

6. Consultation on proposals to make it easier to convert commercial premises to residential. 

The Coalition Government wants to identify more opportunities to exempt development from the planning system and will consult on a proposal to allow a change of use, without the need to apply for planning permission, to residential from business, general industrial and storage/distribution uses; 

7. The expediting of planning decisions for surplus military land and other public sites suitable for housing, and also testing 'build now, pay later' techniques to quicken delivery to accelerate the release of public sector land to support homes and jobs. 

It is proposed that this will potentially allow the Ministry of Defence to realise up to £350 million of estate disposals and enable delivery of up to 20,000 new homes by 2014-15.

Posted on: 31/03/2011

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.

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