The Department for Transport has published a consultation on changes to the decision-making process for stopping up and diversion orders for public highways. Under the current system, the target time-frame for making a stopping up or diversion order is 13 weeks. Since a developer can only make the application after securing planning permission, developments currently face a 13 week delay if they need to stop up or divert a highway.

The consultation makes proposals to speed up and simplify the application process. These include allowing concurrent submission of both the planning application and the stopping-up or diversion application; devolving order-making powers to the highway authority; devolving order-making powers to the local planning authority, with the highway authority acting as a statutory consultee; and introducing a statutory time limit for negotiating withdrawal of objections to applications.

An integrated system for considering planning applications and stopping up or diversion applications together has been rejected on the basis that the differing aims of each system require a difference in approach and procedure.

The consultation also asks whether local authorities could recover a fee from the developer for the costs of determining applications. From a developer’s standpoint, this new cost will hopefully be offset by the benefit of gaining earlier certainty on a stopping up or diversion order, the reduction of costs associated with current delays, and the economic rewards from earlier delivery of a development.