Planning for the Future :Government Consultation Paper August 2020

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SUMMARY

  • A new planning policy system, with more emphasis on nation-wide policy control is proposed, the outline of which is as follows :
  • A new, more comprehensive National Planning Policy Framework will be published setting out generic policy relating to design standards, heritage assets, household extensions etc. Housing targets for each authority will be set by Government. A National Model Design Code will be released in Autumn 2020.  
  • Local Plans to become much shorter. No local policies replicating national requirements will be allowed. Focus is to be placed on locally appropriate design codes and site/area specific requirements. Local Plans to be produced in a fixed 30-month period (current average is 7 years) and will be reviewed at least every 5 years.
  • Local Plans will be based on a hybrid zonal system, setting out  Growth Areas (permission in principle), Renewal Areas (presumption in favour of development) and Protection. In Growth and Renewal areas, the Local Plan will set out suitable uses, limitations on height and/or density as relevant. Sub areas may be designated within these areas.
  • An Infrastructure Levy will replace CIL and Section 106 Agreements. It will be a nationally-set, value-based flat rate charge. 
  • An expectation that large-scale developments will provide a variety of development delivered by different builders.
  • Changes to the planning application process, an outline of which is as follows:
  • Timescales will become a requirement rather than a target.
  • Planning applications, supporting documents and conditions will need to be submitted in a more standardised format.
  • The appeal process will remain, but the weight placed on the policy framework will be stronger. Therefore, the need to become involved in the Local Plan formulation will be much more important.
  • All new development will be required to be 'Carbon Zero' by 2050.
  • Local Authorities will need to introduce a more user friendly, tech-based approach to enable easy public engagement and access to information.
  • Further reforms relating to specific areas of planning expected to be published in the Autumn.

FURTHER DETAILED EXPLANATION

Planning Policy Changes

New National Planning Policy Framework

  1. A new NPPF will provide a wide range of generic policies from design standards, impact on heritage assets to household extensions et al.
  1. In autumn 2020, the Government will also release a National Model Design Code. Local authorities will then prepare local design guides and codes in accordance with this model. Codes will then be more binding on development proposals. The Government will set up a body to support the delivery of 'locally-popular' design codes and propose that each authority should have a chief officer for design and place-making.
  1. Housing targets for each planning authority will be set by the Government.

New Look Local Plans

  1. Local Plans will no longer include general policies, just specific development standards. Planning authorities are encouraged to focus new Local Plans on design quality, incorporating design codes drawn up with community involvement.
  1. Local Plans will be developed over a fixed 30-month period with clear engagement points, and on a standardised digital template.  The public will be encouraged to engage at the initial Local Plan stage, with the process doing away with Public Inquiries. The Government see the Local Plan stage as the opportunity for the public to be involved in development consultation, with no further consultation opportunities on the principle of development. Local Plans will also be subject to a new single statutory “sustainable development” test, replacing the existing tests of soundness.
  1. Each planning authority will be required to review its Local Plan at least every 5 years. Neighbourhood Plans would be retained albeit in what form is not yet clear.
  1. The White Paper also outlines options for Local Development Orders or Development Consent Orders to agree outstanding reserved matters once permission in principle has been established through the plan in areas of Growth (see below).

Hybrid Zonal System – Growth, Renewal and Protected Areas

  1. Local Plans will each identify three types of land:
  • Growth areas - These areas will be suitable for substantial development. Growth sites will automatically have outline approval for development but there will be a requirement that a masterplan and site-specific design codes be agreed as a condition of the permission in principle which is granted through the plan. 
  • Renewal areas - In renewal areas, there will be a statutory presumption in favour of development being        granted for the uses specified as being suitable in each area. In such areas the Government will seek to allow the pre-approval of popular and replicable designs through permitted development.
  • and areas that are Protected.
  1. In Growth and Renewal areas, the Local Plan will set out suitable uses, limitations on height and/or density as relevant. Sub areas may be designated within these areas.
  1. Sites should not be included in the Local Plans where there is no reasonable prospect of any infrastructure that may be needed coming forward within the plan period. 
  1. There will still be an ability to submit planning applications for different forms of development to that prescribed by the Local Plan, but such development be considered as 'exceptions'. Therefore, the need to become involved in the Local Plan formulation will be much more important.

New Infrastructure Levy

  1. CIL and S106 obligations are to be replaced by a nationally-set value-based flat rate charge ('the Infrastructure Levy'). This will be charged as a fixed proportion of the development value above a threshold, with a mandatory nationally-set rate or rates. This Levy would also be charged against development allowed through Permitted Development Rights. Local authorities would be able to use funds raised through the levy to secure affordable housing or for developers to provide it on site by way of 'delivery in kind'.

REQUIREMENTS FOR LARGE SCALE DEVELOPMENTS

  1. To speed up construction on large scale developments the new expectation will be that there should be a variety of development types from different builders which allow more phases to come forward together.
  1. The Government will ensure decisions on the locations of new public buildings – such as government offices and further education colleges – support renewal and regeneration of town centres.
  1. To provide better information to local communities, to promote competition amongst developers, and to assist SMEs and new entrants to the sector, the Government will consult on options for improving the data held on contractual arrangements used to control land.

PLANNING APPLICATIONS

Timescales and Implications

  1. The well-established time limits of 8 or 13 weeks for determining a planning application from validation to decision should be a firm deadline, not an aspiration. Also, the validation of applications should be integrated with the submission of the application. There may possibly be refunds of fees or automatic permission if these deadlines are not met. Successful appeals will receive a planning application fee rebate.

More Standardised Supporting Information and Conditions

  1. There will be shorter and more standardised applications. A national data standard for smaller applications will be created. For major development, beyond relevant drawings and plans, there should only be one key standardised planning statement of no more than 50 pages. There will also be greater standardisation of technical supporting information, for instance about local highway impacts, flood risk and heritage matters, and national standardised conditions.

Appeal Process

  1. The appeal process will also still remain however the primacy of the National Planning Framework and the Local Plan will be more emphatic. Therefore, the need to become involved in the Local Plan formulation will be much more important.

Carbon Zero Developments

  1. All new development will be required to be 'Carbon Zero' by 2050.

FURTHER REFORMS TO BE BROUGHT FORWARD

  1. The Government will bring forward proposals later this year for improving the resourcing of planning departments.
  1. The Government propose to introduce a 'fast-track for beauty' through changes to national policy and legislation, to incentivise and accelerate high quality development which reflects local character and preferences.
  1. In the autumn, there will be a separate consultation on the future of environmental impact assessment and consideration is being given to a national set of green standards. The Environment Bill currently being progressed will legislate for mandatory net gains for biodiversity as a condition of most new development.  
  1. The Government will review and update the planning framework for listed buildings and conservation areas, to ensure their significance is conserved while allowing, where appropriate, sympathetic changes to support their continued use and address climate change.
  1. The Government will review and strengthen the existing planning enforcement powers and sanctions available to local planning authorities to ensure they support the new planning system.