The Housing and Planning Bill was presented to Parliament for its first reading earlier this week (13th October 2015).  A date for the second reading, when the general principles of the Bill will be debated, has not yet been timetabled.

The Bill is divided into 8 Parts:

  1. New Homes in England
  2. Rogue Landlords and letting agents in England
  3. Recovering abandoned premises in England
  4. Social Housing in England
  5. Housing, Estate Agents and Rentcharges: Other changes
  6. Planning in England
  7. Compulsory Purchase etc.
  8. General

This blog focuses on key elements of Part 6, Planning in England (Bill clauses 92-110 (inclusive)).

Neighbourhood Planning

The clauses in the Bill propose amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“the 1990 Act”) to speed up the designation of neighbourhood areas and to give the Secretary of State powers to intervene in the preparation of neighbourhood plans.   In terms of the Secretary of State’s intervention powers, clause 94 (which inserts a new section 13B into the 1990 Act) would enable the Secretary of State to:

“…direct the local planning authority to act in a way that is not in accordance with what was recommended by the [neighbourhood plan] examiner…”.

This power would be exercisable if there were to be new evidence (in whole or part) or a new fact or “a different view taken by the Secretary of State as to a particular fact”. If this action was taken it could lead to an examination on the issue.

Local Planning

The Secretary of State’s powers are reinforced within the area of Local Plan examination as well. Powers are proposed which would enable the Secretary of State to give notice to the person appointed to carry out the examination whereby the Secretary of State could, amongst other matters:

direct the person not to take any step, or any further step, in connection with the examination of the development plan document, or of a specified part of it, until a specified time or until the direction is withdrawn”.

A new section 27 is proposed to be substituted for the existing section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 regarding the Secretary of State’s default powers.  The section will apply, as it does at present, if the Secretary of State considers that the LPA are:

failing or omitting to do anything it is necessary for them to do in connection with the preparation, revision or adoption of a development plan document.”

In that situation the Secretary of State currently has the power to prepare or revise the document (at the LPA’s expense) and to hold an independent examination. The proposed new section retains existing powers but expands on them so that the Secretary of State will be able to give directions to the LPA in relation to the preparation or revision of the document ultimately leading to the holding of an independent examination.

The costs of an independent examination of a development plan document which has been caused to be held as a result of the new section 27 will be recoverable by the Secretary of State from the LPA.

Planning Powers of the Mayor of London

The July 2015 Productivity Plan “Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation” stated that further devolution of planning powers to the Mayor of London in relation to wharves and sightlines would take place (see blog post of July 20th 2015).  Amendments proposed in this Bill pave the way for secondary legislation to be brought in to give effect to that Plan commitment.   In addition, the powers of the Mayor to “call in” applications for his own determination and for London Boroughs to consult the Mayor before granting planning permission are broadened.

Permission in principle and local registers of land

A new section 58A of the 1990 Act is to be introduced in England to bring forward “permission in principle” which, when combined with a new “technical details consent” (possibly akin to a reserved matters approval) would lead to the grant of full planning permission.

A development order would grant permission in principle to land that is allocated for development in a qualifying document (details of which documents would be qualifying documents would be set out in the order).  The notes that accompanied the Bill state that the Government intends that, initially, only land allocated in the Brownfield Register, Development Plan documents and Neighbourhood Plans would be capable of obtaining permission in principle.  The Order would also set out the type and scope of development that would be granted permission in principle.  Again, the Government states that they anticipate this will be limited to sites suitable for housing (i.e. its use) but also location and quantum of development.

Amendments will be required to the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 to bring these changes into effect, setting out the process for applicants and LPAs to follow and the types of development that could take advantage of the new process as well as the process for an application for technical details consent.  The accompanying notes to the Bill state that it is:”..the Government’s current intention…to limit the type of development to minor housing development (the creation of fewer than 10 units).”  A consultation is proposed in relation to the application process for a technical details consent.  It is understood that it will not be possible for a permission in principle to impose conditions, any conditions must be imposed on the later technical details consent.

Brownfield Land Register

The Bill provides for the Secretary of State to make regulations to require LPAs in England to “prepare, maintain and publish” a register of land of a prescribed description or which satisfies prescribed criteria.  This is the Brownfield Land Register which was trailed in the Chancellor’s July Productivity Plan.  This change links back to the introduction of permissions in principle which, as noted above, will apply to sites within a Brownfield Land Register.

Miscellaneous amendments

PD Rights:

A proposed change to section 60 of the 1990 Act will enable development orders to require the approval of the LPA or the Secretary of State to any matters related to the building operations or use of the land following those operations.

Permissions direct to the Secretary of State:

A widening of the categories of development by which an LPA is designated for its performance is proposed.  Also regulations will set out types of applications that may not be made direct to the Secretary of State. The notes accompanying the Bill suggest that if an LPA is designated in respect of its performance in determining non-major applications, then it might be appropriate for minor applications still to be determined at a local level.

Financial benefits:

A new section 75A of the 1990 Act would require LPAs to set out in their reports to committee a list of financial benefits likely to be obtained by the authority if the proposed development were to be carried out.  The financial benefit must be recorded whether or not it is material to the LPA’s decision with regard to the planning application although its materiality, or lack of, will need to be identified.

NSIPs:

The much trailed inclusion of housing within an application for development consent in England is now included as a proposed amendment to section 115 of the Planning Act 2008.  It does not enable pure housing projects to be able to apply for development consent, the housing must be linked to the application for the nationally significant infrastructure project (functionally or geographically). As the Bill states it must be “related housing development”. Guidance will be produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government setting out details of the amount of housing that may be granted consent via the development consent process.

Urban Development Corporations: Changes are proposed to be made to orders establishing urban development corporations in England.  New consultation requirements and parliamentary procedures are proposed.

Conclusion

The Planning and Housing Bill is a wide ranging Bill.  This blog only covers a small section of the amendments and new processes proposed by the Bill.  However, even reviewing this one Part of the Bill demonstrates that, when enacted, the changes brought in will be widespread.