Friday, 8 August 2014

Government consults on potential changes to the planning system

Recently appointed Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has announced the prospect of a raft of potential changes to the planning system with the aim of reducing “red tape”, and helping to speed up the planning process.

As a result, landowners, developers and the planning industry have until 26 September to give their views to the Government’s consultation.

While only proposals at the moment, they do provide a useful indication of future planning policy.

Kentcentric’s friends at Maidstone-based DHA Planning have contacted us as they are currently sifting through the fine print in the 98 page consultation document. Here are a few of the headlines and potential changes, including:

Changes to permitted development rights

Several improved permitted development (PD) rights are being proposed, including:
· Improved PD rights to create housing
· Allowing light industrial and warehousing buildings to be converted to housing
· Making permanent the existing temporary office to residential PD rights
· Making permanent the existing temporary improved rights for larger householder extensions

Improved rights to help town centres

· Bringing most A2 uses (such as shops, banks and building societies) into the A1 (shops) category, to allow changes of use without planning permission
· Allowing uses such as shops, banks, casinos, amusement arcades and nightclubs to change to A3 restaurant/cafĂ© or D2 assembly and leisure uses
· Allowing shops to create ancillary buildings within their car parks to facilitate click and collect services, and to extend their loading bays
· Raising the existing 200m2 limit for creating mezzanine floors in shops under PD rights

Improved PD rights for commercial buildings

· Allowing solar PV panels on commercial buildings
· Making permanent the existing rights for larger extensions to commercial buildings

Reducing delays caused by planning conditions

The proposals also suggest a range of measures that the Government says could reduce unnecessary pre-commencement conditions and speed up the time local authorities take to discharge conditions.

The suggestions include:
· Deeming conditions to be discharged if the council doesn’t respond quickly
· Allowing conditions discharge fees to be refunded after eight weeks if no response is received
· Requiring authorities to share draft conditions with applicants before issuing the decision notice
· Requiring authorities to better justify the use of pre-commencement conditions

More proportionate consultation

The Government is proposing to remove automatic requirements to consult organisations such as Natural England, English Heritage and the Highways Agency in certain circumstances, usually for smaller schemes. For example, Natural England will only need to be consulted where a scheme is actually likely to affect an SSSI rather than the current blanket requirement for all schemes within 2km of an SSSI.

Raising the thresholds for EIA screening

Currently, local authorities have to “screen” all proposals for industrial estate and urban development projects (such as housing schemes) on sites of 0.5ha or greater, to see if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required. The Government proposes to raise these thresholds to 5ha in certain circumstances, reducing the number of schemes that need to be screened.

We’re sure Jonathan Buckwell at DHA Planning would be happy to provide you with more information. He can be contacted by email or call 01622 776226.

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