The 2013 Budget and the Planning System

On 20 March 2013, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented the 2013 Budget. 

Particular focus has been made within the media of the somewhat gloomy economic forecast for growth in 2013 (down from the anticipated 1.2% to 0.6%) as well as the more adventurous proposals relating to the increase in personal allowance and the new "Help to Buy" housing scheme.  However, within the Budget, although perhaps not as well publicised, there were also a number of further measures proposed in order to continue the reform of the planning system.

The basis of the reform is the Government's intent to increase housing supply, and the Government considers that the National Planning Policy Framework has played (and continues to play) a significant role in this increase with the proportion of planning applications being approved at a ten year high and the pace of local plan making increasing (although the Government has conveniently ignored the significant number of Local Planning Authorities that still don't have an up-to-date Local Plan in place, which continues to create uncertainty).

Further reforms include:

  • The publication of significantly reduced planning guidance by this summer;
  • Local areas will be asked to put in place bespoke pro-growth planning policies and delivery arrangements, as part of new Local Growth Deals, pursued in response to Lord Heseltine's review, and through City Deals (this is particularly relevant given the City Deal proposed within Hull)
  • Consultation on allowing further flexibilities between use classes to support change of use from certain agricultural and retail uses to residential use
  • The Government will also develop further measures to streamline the process for planning judicial reviews by summer 2013 (in addition to the consultation on shortening the time limits which has already taken place).
  • The production of technical planning guidance on shale gas by July 2013 to provide clarity around planning for shale gas during the important exploration phase for the industry.
  • In relation to the Government's commitment to provide 'zero carbon homes' from 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government will publish a detailed plan, setting out its response to the 2012 consultation on the energy efficiency requirements in building regulations, by May 2013.  The Government will then consult on next steps, including on the means of delivering allowable solutions, by Summer Recess.

So, given the number of reforms that have been proposed in previous Budgets, the proposals are actually quite limited.  The hope for the planning industry is that instead there will be greater emphasis on progressing the adoption of new Local Plans, which in turn will provide far greater certainty and confidence within the planning system.

Posted on: 25/03/2013

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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