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Planning Law Speed Read – January 2017

The first planning law Speed Read of 2017 looks at topics including starter homes, garden villages, neighbourhood planning and proposed improvements to the use of planning conditions.

DCLG proposes improvements to the use of planning conditions

Last month the DCLG responded to the consultation on improving the use of planning conditions.

The response was founded on the concern that too many overly restrictive and unnecessary conditions are routinely attached to planning permissions, with little regard given to the additional costs and delays that they impose.

Therefore the Government proposes to introduce measures aimed at reducing the impact of unnecessary conditions on the deliverability of developments.

In particular, the response proposes that a Local Planning Authority (LPA) must seek the agreement of the applicant prior to imposing pre-commencement conditions.

The applicant would then have ten working days (or such longer period agreed between the applicant and LPA) to respond to an LPA’s proposal to impose the condition. If the applicant does not respond within this timescale then the applicant’s approval to the condition is deemed to be granted.

The Government also intend to introduce secondary legislation which expressly prohibits the following 6 types of conditions:

  • Conditions that unreasonably impact on the deliverability of a development.
  • Conditions that reserve outline application details.
  • Conditions that require the development to be carried out in its entirety.
  • Conditions that duplicate a requirement for compliance with other regulatory requirements.
  • Conditions requiring land to be given up.
  • Positively worded conditions requiring payment of money or other consideration.

The proposals, though welcome, perhaps pose more questions than answers – e.g. what will be the effect of failing to reach an agreement on a pre-commencement condition; when will a condition be deemed to “unreasonably impact” on deliverability?

The Government have said they will consult further on these proposals and we will report on any further developments.

Latest Government thoughts on neighbourhood planning

The DCLG’s response to the recent consultation on neighbourhood planning reiterates the Government’s intentions to continue to encourage community involvement through neighbourhood planning. Key points from the DCLG’s response are as follows:

  • The regulations setting out the detail of the process for modifying an existing neighbourhood plan should replicate (as far as possible) the existing regulations for making a new plan.
  • A new “basic condition” should be introduced to ensure that a neighbourhood plan proposal does not adversely affect any existing plan that remains in place, in areas where neighbourhood area boundaries have changed.
  • Statements of Community Involvement (SCIs) should be reviewed at least every five years.
  • LPA must include their policies on providing advice or assistance to groups preparing neighbourhood plans in the preliminary stages of plan-making in their SCIs within 12 months of Royal Assent of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.

“Starter Homes Partnerships” announced for 2017

The Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, announced on 3 January 2017 that the construction of Starter Homes will be commenced on brownfield sites across the country later this year.

30 local authority partnerships have been selected and will be supported by the Homes and Communities Agency through the £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund.

Some of the local authority partnerships taking part include:

  • Blackburn with Darwen Council
  • Blackpool Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan)
  • Liverpool City Council (in association with Sefton, Knowsley, Halton, Wirral, St Helens)
  • Middlesbrough Council
  • Northumberland County Council
  • Rotherham Metropolitan Council
  • Sheffield City Council
  • South Ribble Borough Council (in association with Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council)
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Gavin Barwell confirmed that there has been keen interest from local authorities with 1 in 3 expressing an interest in delivering Starter Homes in their area.

Despite this interest however, only 30 of the 79 Councils that expressed an interest have been chosen for the first wave of Starter Homes, an approach that follows the general “retreat” by the Government  in the final months of last year from their initial commitment to provide a universal quota of 20% Starter Homes on every new development site.

The Government now appear to be taking a more cautious approach and are first of all piloting Starter Homes with a select number of local authorities.

For developers operating in the areas of those local authorities involved in the first wave of Starter Homes, there may opportunities to work with local authorities for the delivery of this new housing product.

In fact it may be that schemes that are already (or about to be) consented may stand to benefit from the proposals and it may be worthwhile enquiring with those authorities as to their allocation of the £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund.

14 new Garden Villages backed by the Government

The Government has committed £6 million of funding towards 14 new Garden Villages across the country including sites in Merseyside, Lancaster, Cumbria and Cheshire East.

In addition to the £6 million fund, the Government has promised support in terms of expertise, brokerage and new planning freedoms with the garden village developments also having access to the Housing Infrastructure Fund announced in the Autumn statement.

In light of the high level of interest expressed in garden village developments, the Government has made an additional £1 million available this year for other garden village proposals.

Duty to give reasons for delegated powers decision

In the recent case of Shasha and others (as Trustees of the Placement Pension Fund) v Westminster City Council the High Court has held that there is a duty for a planning officer to give reasons in writing for a decision taken under delegated powers.

A residents’ company had applied for planning permission to enhance facilities within their building. The planning application replicated a planning permission which was granted in 2013. The 2013 permission had not been implemented and was due to expire.

The planning officer granted planning permission for the development which was subsequently challenged by way of judicial review by an objector to the proposals.

The planning officer’s report had indicated that the Council was bound by the 2013 permission and therefore the amenity objections did not constitute a reason for refusing planning permission.

This was considered by the High Court to be an error of law. The planning officer should have fully considered any objections and other material considerations and should have given reasons for his decision.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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