This is entry number 183, first published on 4 November 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today's entry reports on the launch of consultation on the fourth tranche of Planning Act 2008 regulations.

On Monday the government issued a consultation on the fourth and final 'tranche' of regulations that are to support the Planning Act regime. Like the first tranche, it consists of only one set of regulations, in fact, so more of a sliver. Here is a link to the consultation document. The first tranche dealt with National Policy Statements, the second with pre-application consultation and making applications, and the third with examination of applications and decisions on them.

These regulations deal with making changes to development consent orders (DCOs) after they are granted. There are three levels of change possible: corrections (to obvious errors in the DCO), non-material changes and material changes. The regulations flesh out the last two of these, the procedure for the first being covered in the Act itself.

There is no defined boundary between a 'non-material change' and a 'material change'. You might wonder why you would want to make a non-material change, but the concept has a track record in the conventional planning system. If some aspect of the permission was very precisely defined, you could not normally change it even a little, and this might be something that would constitute a non-material change, if it had no knock-on effects.

The proposed procedure for a non-material change is a simple one: apply to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), who publicises the making of the application. The IPC then consults those who were consulted on the original application. Presumably it takes the consultation responses into account and makes a decision, although this is not made explicit - the consultation document explains that to do so would be outside the regulation-making powers of the Act. Oh, and you have to pay the rather precise fee of £6345 for a non-material change to be made.

Applications for material changes can not only be made by the original applicant, but also a subsequent owner of the land concerned, or in limited circumstances the local authority, the Secretary of State, or without an application being made at all (i.e. the decision-making body can change the consent off its own bat in some cases).

The proposed procedure for a material change is pretty much equivalent to that for a full application under the Planning Act, SoCCs and all. One saving is that any application documents that haven't changed do not need to be redrafted or resubmitted, and the fee is somewhat lower as a result. There is also no timetable set out, so theoretically an application for a material change to an application could take longer than the original, as it currently stands, since applications under the Planning Act have to be decided within nine months of the 'preliminary meeting'. To impose limits may again be considered to be outside the scope of regulation-making powers, but I would have thought it could fall under the heading of 'decision-making process'.

A couple of final points - the draft regulations that accompany the consultation document are entitled Infrastructure Planning (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2011. That is rather similar to the already-existing Infrastructure Planning (Miscellaneous Prescribed Provisions) Regulations 2010, which deals with other matters - perhaps a change of name might be in order? Part 3 of the draft regulations has the same heading as part 2 - perhaps the word 'supplementary' could be added to the end of the former. I will make a response along these lines.

As a warning to those preparing PDFs for publication on the internet, the consultation document shows up on google with the title 'The Empowerment Fund' - an example of 'metadata' left over from using another document.

Responses to the consultation should be made by 24 December 2010 - that the eight weeks given is shorter than the recommended 12 weeks is justified by the principles having already been consulted upon. If made, the regulations are due to come into force on 6 April 2011.