A new bill was published on 27 November 2007 which aims "to make the planning system quicker, more transparent and easier for the public". It proposes changes to the process for dealing with major infrastructure projects to deal with "21st century challenges", namely climate change, environmental protection and the need for new homes. The bill will seek to reduce the time for determination of these applications to less than 12 months.
A major role in this revised system will be played by the Infrastructure Planning Commission which will deal with infrastructure projects with national significance. It will also advise the Secretary of State in relation to national policy statements.
The bill proposes changes which will improve public participation and the appeal process. It will also allow local planning authorities to set charges on developments to contribute to community infrastructure projects.
There will be changes to the process for householder applications to make them less onerous.
Changes to the powers of the Mayor of London
The Greater London Authority Act 2007 introduced amended planning powers for the Mayor. The Government has published a draft Mayor of London Order, which it proposes to bring into force on April 2008.
Under the Order, applications of strategic importance must be referred by the local planning authority (LPA) to the Mayor, who currently has the power to direct the LPA to refuse permission.
This power will remain, but the Mayor would also have the power to determine an application of "potential strategic importance" (PSI), rather than determination by the LPA. The draft order requires that the application is submitted to the Mayor, who has a timetable in which to consider the application and tell the LPA how he wishes to proceed. This consideration is intended to be dealt with inside the current timetable for determination of applications.
PSI applications are the same categories as those which currently have to be referred but with changed thresholds. For example, developments of 150 dwellings or more would be PSI applications.
PSI applications also have to satisfy three criteria:
- A significant impact on the London Plan.
- Significant effects likely to affect more than one borough.
- There are sound planning reasons for issuing a direction, such as the performance of the relevant London borough.