Planning Reform Proposals

Published Monday, November 30, 2015

Reforms aimed at making the planning system quicker and simpler to use are high on the Government's agenda, as set out in the 2015 Productivity Plan. Provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill make changes to the planning system with the aim of getting more houses built. This paper sets out the Government’s key planning reform proposals and those changes in the process of being made.

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This paper sets out the Government’s key planning reform proposals and those changes in the process of being made. Most of the proposed changes would apply to England only.

The Conservative Party 2015 Manifesto document contained several planning commitments, including proposals to “change the law so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications” and to “let local people have more say on local planning and let them vote on local issues.”

In the Queen’s speech on 27 May 2015 two new bills were announced which would make changes to planning law: a Housing and Planning Bill and an Energy Bill, both of which have now been introduced to Parliament. The Energy Bill 2015-16 would remove the need to obtain consent from the Secretary of State for onshore wind farms above 50 megawatts in size. The Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 contains a number of different planning measures which include:

  • putting a general duty on all planning authorities to promote the supply of Starter Homes, and providing a specific duty, which will be set out in later regulations, to require a certain number or proportion of Starter Homes on site;
  • requiring local authorities to grant “sufficient suitable development permission” of serviced plots of land to meet the demand based on the self-build and custom housebuilding register.
  • intervention by the Secretary of State over the production of local plans where local authorities are judged to be too slow;
  • creating a zonal system for brownfield land creating automatic planning permission in principle for housing; and
  • allowing major infrastructure projects with “an element” of housing to be considered as part of the Planning Act 2008 development consent regime.

For more detailed information and reaction to these changes see Library briefing paper, Housing and Planning Bill.

As well as some measures now contained in the Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16, the Government’s July 2015 Productivity Plan, Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation,  and the November 2015 Autumn Statement also announced some further changes including:

  • “significantly” tightening the “planning guarantee” (the time that planning applications spend in total with decision makers), for minor planning applications;
  • strengthening guidance to improve the use of the duty to cooperate on strategic matters between local authorities; and
  • introducing a delivery test on local authorities, to ensure delivery against the homes set out in local plans within a reasonable timeframe.

The Government’s August 2015 rural productivity plan, Towards a one nation economy: A 10-point plan for boosting productivity in rural areas, also announced some changes, designed to make the planning process easier in rural areas including the introduction of new and revised permitted development rights.

The Government has also confirmed that it will put on a permanent basis the current temporary permitted development right which allows offices to change to residential use, in some circumstances, without the need for planning permission. There are also proposals to increase permitted development rights in relation to shale gas exploration.

Commons Briefing papers SN06418

Author: Louise Smith

Topics: Regional planning and development, Housing, Housing supply, Planning

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