The Planning White Paper – Planning For The Future
The UK Government has launched a consultation process that it describes as “radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War”. The White Paper in its Foreword by Robert Jenrick MP promises that the proposed reform is designed to cut red tape but not standards and make the planning process more “efficient, effective and equitable”.
The White Paper makes 24 proposals to reform the planning system in England and specifically Planning Obligations and Local Plans. The consultation is open until 29 October 2020.
The White Paper Proposes The Following Changes To Local Plans:
Local Plans should identify 3 types of land – GROWTH areas sustainable for substantial development, RENEWAL areas suitable for development and areas that are PROTECTED. (Proposal 1)
For Growth areas, it is proposed that the term substantial development is defined in policy. It is anticipated that land in this category would include new settlements, urban extension sites and urban regeneration sites. Areas of risk or subject to other important constraints would be excluded from this category unless any risk is fully mitigated.
Areas identified as Growth Areas would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development (Proposal 5). Outline permission will automatically be conferred to land identified as Growth Areas by the Local plan. Detailed Planning Permission could then be secured by either; a reformed reserved matters process, a Local Development Order or for very large sites a Development Consent Order.
In Renewal Areas there would be the general presumption in favour of development and consent would be granted in the following ways; a new permission route which gives automatic consent if the scheme meets design and other prior approvals, a faster planning application process or a Local or Neighbourhood Development Order
Development Policies will be established at a national level (Proposal 2). This means that the Local Plan will be restricted to establishing site specific requirements for Growth and Renewal areas, for example setting site specific height limits, scale and density limits. Local Plan Policies will be replaced by site specific development standards. Design guides and codes will be required and it is envisaged that these will be produced on a “twin track” with the Local Plan.
It is proposed that these Design Guidance and codes are prepared locally with community involvement and ensure that the codes are binding on decision making (Proposal 11). It is proposed to issue national design guidance and a national model design code together with a revised Manual for Streets and this should have a direct bearing on communities. The current methods of bringing forward local design codes should remain.
It is proposed that Local Plans will clearly identify the location of heritage assets as well as locally important features such as protected views (Proposal 17). Further the White Paper makes it very clear that Neighbourhood Plans should remain (Proposal 9).
Local Plans should be digitalised and web based not paper based. They should be visual and map based (Proposal 7).
The White Paper proposes a Change to the Housing Requirement Figures (Proposal 4). It is proposed that Local Plans will need to identify areas to meet a range of development needs (homes, Businesses and community facilities) for a minimum of 10 years. The White Paper proposes a standard method of calculating housing requirements by simply distributing the national housebuilding target of 300,000 of new homes per annum to each local authority, taking into account factors including; the size of existing urban developments, the extent of land constraints (flood risk, Green Belt, heritage designations). It would become the responsibility of an individual authority to allocate land suitable for housing to meet the requirement set. Notably, authorities will be able to work jointly to share the allocations.
The White Paper Makes The Following Proposals On The Making Of Local Plans:
Local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate will work to a very strict timetable to produce the Local Plan (Proposal 8). The Process should take 30 months from the Planning Authority calling for areas to be designated as Growth, Renewal or Protect Areas to the Local Plan coming into force.
Local Plans will be subject to a single “sustainable development” test (Proposal 3). This test will replace the current test of “soundness” and the Local Plan would be considered solely as to whether it contributes to achieving sustainable development.
The White Paper’s Proposals In Respect Of Development Control Include:
The White paper proposes faster decision making with firm deadlines. The well established 8 or 13 week determination deadlines will remain but will become firm deadlines. Greater digitalisation of the planning process is promised (Proposal 6).
A fast track for beauty is introduced by the White Paper (Proposal 14). This fast tracking of acceptable development will be achieved by; Firstly, updating the National Planning Policy Framework to make it clear that schemes that comply with local design guides are fast tracked through the approvals process. Secondly, in Growth areas a local authority masterplan and site specific code will be a condition of the permission which is granted in principle under the Local Plan. Finally, a change in the nature of permitted development to support the “gentle intensification” of towns and cities.
Finally, The White Paper Makes The Following Proposals In Respect Of Planning Obligations:
A proposed introduction of the new infrastructure Levy which will consolidate s106 planning obligations (Proposal 19). The rate would be based upon a flat rate, value-based charge set nationally at either a single rate or an area specific rate. Its aim is to increase levels nationally. Revenue will be collected and spent locally. The local authority will be able to levy the contribution on completion of the site rather than occupation.
Notably, it will allow local authorities to borrow against Infrastructure Levy revenues so they can forward fund infrastructure. It is further proposed to extend the scope of the Infrastructure key to permitted development rights developments (Proposal 19).
It is intended that the reformed infrastructure levy should continue to deliver on site affordable housing at its present levels (Proposal 21). The removal of s106 planning obligations and the reform of the Community Infrastructure Levy will mean that local authorities will be able to use funds raised through the infrastructure levy to secure affordable housing. This can be secured by an in-kind provision on site or by contribution.
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