Planning for Change - Radical Change and Helping Businesses Get Back to Work

The Government have been busy recently in the planning arena, with both a heavily strategic planning White Paper being published, as well as legislative changes designed to bring some relief to struggling sectors of the COVID-19 affected economy. Mark Howard, Head of Planning at Michelmores, provides a swift update on the key provisions.

Radical Change

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has announced a White Paper, Planning For The Future, which outlines details of "radical" and highly strategic changes to the planning system. These changes will see land zoned in Local Plans for renewal, growth, or protection.

  • Land designated for "renewal" would require local authorities look favourably on new developments.
  • Land in "growth" areas, development including new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically.
  • "Protected" land will include Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and land in the green belt.

The White Paper proposes that "all new homes be carbon-neutral by 2050, with no new homes delivered under the new system needing to be retrofitted".

The White Paper also includes a "first homes scheme", to provide new homes at a 30% discount for local people, key workers and first-time buyers. There is also a proposal to effectively merge the current Section 106 Agreements with CIL, in order to create a new "Infrastructure Levy" (I think we have been here before).

The White Paper also promises meaningful local consultation to take place early in the development process.

As might be expected, the White Paper has been met with both welcome and scepticism. To identify just two concerns already raised: the pushing back of the date of 2050 for carbon neutral houses has led to despair by environmental groups; further, the prospect of Local Plans securing "protected" status for entire areas looks possible and, doubtless, will lead to cries of NIMBYism that have dogged increased local involvement previously.

The White Paper seems to be regarded as rough and poorly thought out. We will keep you updated as this policy develops.

Getting Businesses Back to Work

Meanwhile, the Business and Planning Act 2020 received Royal Assent towards the end of July and contains a range of provisions that come into effect in July and August. It covers matters that are focused at helping businesses get back to work. We have picked out the main changes for construction and for the hospitality sector.

Construction - Extending Planning Permissions

This is a very welcome provision for the construction sector, finally providing some clarity around the extension of planning permissions in England. It covers both planning permissions and listed building consents.

An extension to 1 May 2021 will automatically apply for permissions that are extant between 19 August 2020 (when this provision comes into effect) and 31 December 2020.

The same extension will apply to permissions that have lapsed since 23 March 2020. These will not be automatic, but will be subject to an additional environmental approval.

Construction - Site Hours

Again, this is a speeded-up process to get consent to vary existing conditions that limit construction site working hours. This will temporarily amend planning restrictions on construction site working hours until 1 April 2021.

Local authorities have 14 calendar days excluding public and bank holidays to consider these applications.

Hospitality - Outdoor Seating

This is intended to support pubs, cafes and restaurants by introducing an accelerated process for permission to place furniture such as stalls, tables and chairs on the pavement outside their premises. These pavement licences are to be obtained from the local authority. If the licence requires works to be done then the licence grants deemed planning permission. There are enforcement and revocation provisions that ensure the licence does not cause social problems. There should be no safety or amenity issues, and the licenced activity should not block the highway for highway users and the disabled. The application fee is capped at £100 and the consultation and determination periods are speeded-up.

We will keep you abreast of developments in this area of law. But once again, planning is set to become a topical and controversial policy arena.