Now that we are in February and the dust of new year celebrations has settled, it seemed a good time to look at 3 changes which are to be introduced in 2015 in the world of planning law.  Whilst I have picked out 3  key issues there will, undoubtedly, be very many others that take place during the year – if the changes introduced over previous years are anything to go by!  I’ll report separately on those in future blog posts.

(1) Environmental Impact Assessment alterations

The outcome of a review of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 is awaited in due course, that review being necessitated by the new EU Directive 2014/52/EU whose requirements have to be implemented in the UK by 17 May 2017.  In the meantime the Government is bringing forward some changes to the 2011 EIA Regulations now.

In DCLG’s Technical Consultation on Planning which ran from 31 July to 26 September last year proposals to raise some of the size thresholds for screening projects were put forward.  On 6 January 2015 DCLG published its response to the consultation.  Regulations will be brought forward early this year to amend the 2011 EIA Regulations bringing the following changes into effect:

  • the screening threshold for the development of dwelling houses to be increased from the existing 0.5 hectares up to 5 hectares (including where there is up to 1 hectare of non-residential urban development) NB – irrespective of area, a development of more than 150 units will need to be screened;
  • the screening threshold for other urban development to be raised from the existing 0.5 hectares to 1 hectare;
  • the screening threshold for industrial estate development to be raised from the current 0.5 hectares to 5 hectares.

(2) Assets of Community Value

The introduction by the Localism Act 2011 of the registration of Assets of Community Value (ACV) has been seized on by local community groups, particularly the registration of pubs as ACVs.  Over 600 have already been listed and therefore any sale of a listed property has to go through a moratorium process before the sale can proceed, with the local community being able to register an interest in bidding for the ACV.

The Government believes that the interest in protecting local pubs which has been demonstrated by community groups successfully registering such large numbers of assets should equally apply to public involvement in the planning process applicable to pubs.  As a result, Kris Hopkins MP announced at the end of January that where a pub is listed as an ACV then that will in future trigger the temporary removal of permitted development rights for change of use or demolition of those pubs.  A planning application would therefore be required to change the use of a pub listed as an ACV or to demolish it – thereby increasing public involvement in the planning process. Secondary legislation is to be issued to bring forward this change.

(3) Shale Gas Development

The recent debates on the Infrastructure Bill in the House of Commons have led to the Government agreeing to amend the Bill to ban fracking in National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It is not many months ago that the on-line Planning Practice Guidance was amended to state that planning permission for unconventional hydrocarbons should be refused in National Parks, the Broads or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty except in exceptional circumstances and where it could be demonstrated that the development was in the public interest.  If the Bill is enacted as proposed then further changes will have to be made to the Guidance.