There are a lot of changes to planning law in the pipeline at the moment, and many more proposed and under review. As such, the remainder of 2016 is going to see a number important reforms in this area.

Housing Provision

Many of the planning reforms lined up this year centre around the need to increase the UK’s supply of housing. There are proposals that, “wherever feasible,” local authorities should pursue higher-density development in key commuter areas, though not through the use of an arbitrary minimum housing density.

Last year’s Autumn Statement set out targets (or rather confirmed previously-discussed targets) for the provision of “starter homes.” It is hoped that 200,000 such discounted properties can be provided by 2020, and it has been proposed that the definition of exception sites be expanded to include poorly-utilised or unviable non-residential sites.

There are provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill to make Planning Permission in Principle or PPIP available on certain qualifying Brownfield sites. This is designed primarily to open the way for more housing projects, though would also be open to a limited amount of retail development and community space considered “complimentary” to the new housing.

Since 2013, converting office space to residential property became part of permitted development rights. This was supposed to be temporary, and expire on 30th May this year. However, it was confirmed late last year that this is now to continue indefinitely after the expiry of this original period.

Infrastructure Development

Improvement of infrastructure, including new development projects, is another priority of this year’s planning changes. London transport, better connections between the North and South of England, and appropriate levels of energy supply are particular priorities.

It has been confirmed that the section of the High Speed Two (HS2) rail link that stretches between Birmingham and Crewe will be completed six years ahead of the previous schedule. This section of the line is now due to open by 2027 thanks to the recent publication of a new command paper. New planning measures are also set to help the development of international transport. “Clear directions” have been promised for the process of increasing capacities at key airports in the South East, and it has been confirmed that a development consent order and a national policy statement will be the twin mechanisms through which this proceeds.

Planning Tools

There will be significant changes to “special measures” designations. Previously, across a two year period, councils were required to determine 40% of major applications within 13 weeks of receiving them. Now this will be raised to 50%. Minor applications will also have to be determined in 13 weeks, down from 26. At present, councils must lose 20% of major appeals before facing special measures, but this will be cut to 10%.

All planning authorities have to produce local plans by the early stages of next year. If they fail to do so, the secretary of state will instead arrange for the production of such a plan. This will be done “in consultation with the local people.”

For more information on upcoming changes to UK planning law, please contact Stuart Jessop Barrister