In the budget delivered by the then Chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, in March 2016 the Government announced its aim to minimise delays caused in the planning system by pre-commencement planning conditions. Mr Osborne announced that it intended to legislate to "ensure that pre-commencement planning conditions can only be used with the agreement of the developer."

In a press release yesterday the Government launched a public consultation on improving the use of planning conditions. This consultation paper, launched alongside the publication of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, seeks views on the Government’s proposals to improve the use of planning conditions in England, specifically:

1. How the process of prohibiting the use of pre-commencement conditions without the agreement of the applicant would operate; and

2. The potential for a wider application of primary legislation to prohibit conditions in targeted circumstances.

The Government expects that this process would become a part of the dialogue between the applicant and the local planning authority, building on current best practice. In the unlikely event that an applicant refuses to accept a necessary pre-commencement condition proposed by a local planning authority, the authority can refuse planning permission. This, claims the Government, will maintain appropriate protections for important matters such as heritage, the natural environment, green spaces, and measures to mitigate the risk of flooding in accordance with the wider aims of the National Planning Policy Framework ("NPPF") to ensure that only sustainable development is permitted.

The Government are also seeking views on whether it would be necessary to make provision for a default period, after which an applicant’s written agreement would be deemed to have been given, if no response has been received. This would allow the local planning authority to proceed to impose the pre-commencement condition if no response had been received from the applicant within a given period.

The consultation on improving the use of planning conditions can be found here.

These further proposals to limit the ability of planning conditions to delay the commencement of development is further to the Government's introduction of the principle of a deemed discharge of planning conditions last year. Ashfords' commentary on the deemed discharge of planning conditions can be found here.

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill is due to be debated soon and can be read here. The Bill's explanatory note can be read here.