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Planning law update – January 2020

Welcome to Ward Hadaway's planning law update. The aim of our bite-sized bulletins is to keep you abreast of the 'hot' topics and key legal issues relevant to you.

Our planning experts are on hand to discuss in further detail what effects they could have for you and your organisation.

First Homes and the loosening of Green Belt

As you may be aware, the planning white paper was initially expected to be published in November 2019 but was delayed due to the election. The paper was then expected a couple of weeks either side of the budget due on 11 March 2020, but Robert Jenrick has said this week that the paper will be published “in the first half of this year”. He has also said that he wants the document to be “very ambitious”, which will look at ways to accelerate the planning system and that it will incorporate some of the recommendations from the Living with Beauty report.

In view of the delay in publication, it is also likely that the white paper will include some of the planning proposals put forward by Boris Johnson in his election campaign, namely the “First Homes” policy to provide dwellings for first time buyers at a discount of a third. There is speculation that the white paper may also include proposals relating to the loosening of green belt protection in certain areas.

Fast track for beauty

Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary has said “I will establish a “fast track for beauty” where individuals and developers, who have put in the time to create proposals for well-designed buildings, and which use high quality materials take account of their local setting, can see their developments proceed at pace”.

The Government yesterday published the “Living with beauty; promoting health, well-being and sustainable growth” report prepared by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. The report contains many recommendations, and the Government will issue a full response in due course. However, of note are the following planning related recommendations:

  • a fast track route through the planning process for developments that meet local plan or SPD design standards;
  • amendments to the NPPF to include references to the importance of “placemaking”, and “the creation of beautiful places” and “good design and beautiful places”;
  • the Government should “evolve a mechanism whereby meaningful local standards of design and placemaking can efficiently apply to permitted development rights”, in other words a constraint on the office to residential conversion right;
  • tougher measures to ensure that design standards are fully enforced at the implementation stage of a development through “more efficient management of conditions” and enforcement action.

Jenrick has suggested that such a proposal could come forward by way of amendments to the NPPF.  A fast track process may also tie-in with the Government’s long awaited plans to be announced through the white paper to simplify and speed up the planning process.

DRAX power station update

As you may be aware, in October 2019 the Secretary of State approved plans submitted by energy company DRAX for four new gas fired turbines at its existing site in Selby, against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate. The recommendation for refusal was based on the fact that the approval would “undermine the Government’s commitment … to cut greenhouse gas emissions”. The Secretary of State however concluded that the overarching National Planning Statement for Energy does not state that “greenhouse gas emissions are a reason to withhold the grant of consent for such projects”.

The Secretary of State’s approval is now being challenged by campaign group Client Earth and permission has just been granted by the Court for that challenge to progress to a full hearing. Such a hearing will be an opportunity for the courts to consider again the extent to which the impact on climate change is a material consideration in planning terms and any decision could have wider implications beyond the energy sector.

If you have any questions on the issues covered in this update and how they will affect you, please do not hesitate get in touch.

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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