The Queen’s Speech was delivered today, the 27th May 2015, at the State Opening of Parliament. The Conservative Government have set out their agenda for this Parliamentary session including a total of 26 Bills. The main issues of relevance to those of us working in planning are as follows:
(i) Onshore Wind Farms and NSIPs
The manifesto commitment to “…change the law so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications” is to be taken forward. An Energy Bill will remove onshore wind farms of over 50MW from being categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) in the Planning Act 2008 and take decision making back to Local Planning Authorities. This means that planning permission rather than development consent will be required to authorise the construction and operation of large onshore wind farms.
Nothing is said about what happens when an application is refused and appealed or called-in and the decision making power is taken away from the local planning authority.
There are also proposals to make changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to give effect to the manifesto commitment.
The further commitment in the manifesto to end new subsidies for onshore wind farms is to be delivered separately with DECC making further announcements about this shortly.
The Queen’s Speech briefing notes state that the purpose of a new Housing Bill includes “increasing housing supply and access to home ownership“. In terms of the main benefits that the Bill is setting out to provide, the list includes “ensuring local people have more control over planning“.
Local Planning Authorities will be required to support custom and self-builders who are registered in their area in identifying suitable plots of land to build or commission their new home so taking forward the Right to Build. Another series of Channel 4’s Grand Designs looks likely!
A statutory register for brownfield land is proposed which it is said is “..to help achieve the target of getting Local Development Orders in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites by 2020.” The neighbourhood planning system is to be simplified and sped up. Finally, it is stated that the Bill will “..give effect to other changes to housing and planning legislation that would support housing growth.”
We will clearly be hearing a lot more from the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, in relation to housing as the Parliamentary term gets underway.
(iii) Devolution – Wales
The briefing notes released by the Prime Minister’s Press Office to accompany the Queen’s Speech state that in the proposed Wales Bill powers will be “..devolved to Welsh Ministers over consenting for energy developments in Wales up to 350 Megawatts for both onshore and offshore projects“.
It is also proposed that there will be licensing devolution in relation to onshore oil and gas exploration in Wales which will enable the Welsh Government and the National Assembly “..to decide whether exploration for shale oil and gas takes place in Wales“.
(iv) Devolution – Cities and Local Government
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is to “…provide for the devolution of powers to cities with elected metro mayors, helping to build a Northern Powerhouse.”
Manchester is driving forward with this devolution agenda and it will be interesting to see how this works for the city and its region and also which other cities decide to take up the powers being offered to them.
There will certainly be plenty of planning changes to keep up to date with in this parliamentary session. Stay tuned for further blogs!