The Government's recently published 'Technical consultation on planning' contains proposals to change various consultation and notification procedures for certain planning applications in England.  No changes are currently proposed to the consultation arrangements relating to the Environment Agency or the Health and Safety Executive but the suggestion is they will be considered later in another context. 

The Government is keen to explore how unnecessary consultations could be avoided by more effective engagement with consultees at pre-application stage.  An amendment to the planning guidance and 1APP form (requiring an applicant to confirm that the development proposal has not changed since pre-application discussions), is being considered to encourage this.  Any such arrangement would be on the basis the applicant submits the application within six months.  No doubt, consultees would only be happy to “sign away” their right to be consulted if their pre-application concerns had been addressed and the application was proposed to be approved in a form with which they were content. 

The main proposals for more substantive change are as follows:

  • Introduction of a method of collecting more data about when pre-application discussions begin and when approval of details submitted under conditions are concluded, to understand better the full timescales for bringing development forward. Depending on how such data is collected and monitored, there is a risk that this will impose yet another administrative task on over-stretched local planning authorities (LPAs).   
  • Removal of the requirement to consult Natural England (NE) on development within two kilometres of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), save where the proposed development is located in or “likely to affect” a SSSI.  NE has designed maps and data sets to assist with deciding when a proposal is “likely to affect” a SSSI.  
  • Amendment of the requirement to consult the Highways Agency on proposed development likely to result in a material increase in the volume, or a material change in the character, of traffic entering/leaving a trunk road.   Instead the LPA will be required to consult on proposed development likely to result in an adverse impact on the safety of, or queuing on, a trunk road.  However, the “material increase/change” test still applies in relation to traffic using a level crossing over a railway.  Minor developments such as development within the curtilage of a dwelling house or a small extensions will be exempted.  
  • Extension of notification requirements relating to Railway Infrastructure Managers to ensure they are notified of all planning applications relating to development that is proposed within 10 metres of a railway. The consultation document acknowledges that consideration needs to be given as to whether or not that is a sufficient distance.   
  • Numerous amendments are proposed in respect of the consultation/notification procedure for heritage applications.  Some may view the changes as equivalent to a downgrading of Grade II listed buildings, as the proposal is to remove many consultation requirements for them.  The changes also reduce the circumstances in which an application will need to be determined by the Secretary of State (SoS).  Ultimately the need to consult and notify is reserved for development proposals with the potential to have a greater impact. 

For more detail on proposals for listed buildings and conservation areas read our heritage applications briefing here. 

While at first glance the majority of the proposals would appear to reduce work for consultees, in practice it may be anticipated that the effect of some of the proposals would be further front loading of the application process. 

The consultation closes on 26 September 2014.