Planning reforms and consultations
July has been a busy month for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as it launches a number of planning reforms and consultations ahead of the summer recess. Lewis & Co Planning have been tracking some of the key changes that could soon be adopted or might from part of the new National Planning Policy Framework (anticipated in Autumn).
New consultation on Permitted Development changes
A new consultation is running on the Government’s proposals for the next tranche of Permitted Development (PD) Right amendments. The proposed changes being considered continue the Government’s efforts to unlock new sources of housing delivery through permitted development, with a number of new rights, or extensions to existing rights into locations where these have previously been excluded. Proposed changes include:
- A new PD right for changes from Use Class C1 (Hotels and Guesthouses) to Use Class C3 (Residential)
- The removal of the 3-month vacancy requirement from Class MA conversions (Use Class E (Commercial, Business and Service) to Use Class C3 (Residential))
- Raising the floorspace/unit number limits for various existing PD changes of use (including Class MA, Class M, Class N, Class Q)
- Opening up existing PD changes of use on Article 2(3) land (particularly within National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty)
- Adding protection to existing Launderettes by removing these from the Class M PD right (conversion to residential)
- Introducing a ‘rolling’ eligibility to many PD rights by removing specific date criteria from existing permitted development rights and only requiring buildings to have been in a relevant commercial use for a continuous period of at least two years prior to the application for prior approval (i.e. aligning other PD changes of use with Class MA in this regard)
- Expanding Class Q (agricultural to residential conversion) to include other rural buildings/former agricultural buildings
- Setting an upper limit on the size of new homes allowed under Class Q to 150m2 (to encourage smaller units of accommodation rather than larger detached homes)
- Allowing new ‘rear extensions’ to buildings converted under Class Q as part of the works
- Expanding Class R (agricultural diversification) to allow agricultural buildings to change to a wider range of uses (including storage, hotels and Use Class E commercial uses)
Full consultation - https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/permitted-development-rights/consultation-on-additional-flexibilities-to-support-housing-delivery-the-agricultural-sector-businesses-high-streets-and-open-prisons-and-a-call-f
Government response to consultation on planning fees
Following public consultation earlier in 2023, the Government has now announced the changes to planning fees that they intend to adopt, with draft regulations laid on 20th July. These include:
- Confirmed their intention to increase planning fees for major applications by 35% and all other application fees by 25%
- The introduction of an annual increase to planning fees moving forward, starting from 2025 and increased on 1st April each year. Fees will be increased in line with CPI/inflation and capped at a 10% annual increase
- The ‘free-go’ application will be removed entirely
- In tandem with the removal of free go applications, the Government will reduce the ‘planning guarantee’ date on non-majors to 16 weeks. This will improve the ability of applicants to request their application fees back when a timely decision has not been made.
- The Consultation Response makes no firm commitments on changes to performance monitoring, but the Government will develop a new performance framework to “capture a more holistic picture of the quality of service delivery within planning departments”. These changes are likely to prevent local planning authorities from masking true performance on the speed of decision-making through Extension of Time agreements. The response states that extensions of time should only be sought in “exceptional circumstances”.
New consultation on plan-making reforms
A new consultation was also launched on reforms to Local Plan making and significant changes to both content of Local Plans and the procedures for plan-making.
- Local planning authorities will be expected to produce a single Local Plan, and not split local policies across multiple documents moving forward
- Plans are also expected to be more concise, visual and focus on locally important matters. It is intended that Local Plan polices should avoid repetition with national policy requirements that will be common to all local authority areas. As set out in the Levelling Up Bill, the Government intend to adopt a suite of ‘national development management policies’ that will cover common planning considerations
- The reforms also intend to create a more standardised timeline for plan preparation, which will take no longer than 30-months from start to finish
- Additional guidance and support will be provided along the process to ensure draft local Plans are ‘on the right track’ from an early stage. Local authorities will receive advice from an Inspector or other appointed, independent representative of the Secretary of State at three ‘gateways’ along the Local Plan process (in addition to the independent Examination). This change intends to ensure that any legal deficiencies or issues are identified early in the process
- Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) are to be replaced by ‘Supplementary Plans’, used in exceptional circumstances for narrowly focused or geographically specific issues and subject to public consultation and a written representations examination (similar to Neighbourhood Plan examinations)
- Given the significant changes proposed, transitional arrangements for local planning authorities have been outlined. The Government has proposed a deadline for submitting plans under the existing system (30 June 2025), after which all new submissions will need to align with the new system proposed.
Michael Gove Speech
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities also made a speech on 24th July 2023 on the Government’s long-term plan for housing.
The speech focused on specific projects across the country but also referred to the Government’s intention to focus housing delivery in the 20 largest cities that have been subject to the ‘urban uplift’ applied to their housing figures by central Government.
The speech reiterated their Government’s intention to introduce a new Infrastructure Levy despite significant opposition to the proposed Levy.