1. New Planning Court established from 6 April 2014

The Civil Procedure Rules have been amended to provide for the new Planning Court within the High Court, established from 6 April 2014. Planning-related judicial reviews and statutory challenges will be dealt with in a specialist list under the new Planning Court. The Court will be overseen by the Planning Liaison Judge (Mr Justice Lindblom) who will hear a wide range of planning-related claims, including disputes relating to:

  • Planning permissions, other development consents, the enforcement of planning control and the enforcement of other statutory schemes;
  • Applications under the Transport and Works Act 1992.
  • Wayleaves;
  • Highways and other rights of way;
  • Compulsory purchase orders;
  • Village greens;
  • European Union environmental legislation and domestic transpositions, including assessments for development consents, habitats, waste and pollution control;
  • National, regional or other planning policy documents, statutory or otherwise;
  • And any other matter which the Planning Liaison Judge considers appropriate.  

All planning-related judicial reviews and statutory challenges issued after 6 April 2014 should be issued in the Planning Court. Any such claims issued before 6 April 2014 may be transferred to the Planning Court.

The new court is part of a number of reforms aiming to make the planning system more efficient and encourage growth in the UK, including the six week judicial review period for challenges to decisions made under the 'planning acts', the fast track planning process in the administrative court and the imminent introduction of a permissions filter for statutory challenges (as mentioned in our February e-bulletin).

Click here to read the February e-bulletin.

Click here to read a more detailed HSF e-bulletin on the Planning Court.

2. New heritage provisions: heritage partnership agreements, local listed building consent orders and certificates of lawfulness of proposed works

New regulations improving the operation of the heritage system came into force on 6 April 2014. They bring into effect some of the changes introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and provide for the relevant procedures to be followed.

  1. Heritage Partnership Agreements: A local planning authority and the owner of a listed building can now draw up a formal listed building heritage partnership agreement (HPA) (these agreements could previously be made informally only). An HPA may grant listed building consent for the carrying out of specified works for the alteration or extension of the building (but it cannot grant listed building consent for demolition) and will set out any conditions attached to the consent. The works will still require any other relevant permission, including planning permission. Consultation with English Heritage is required in some cases and certain publicity requirements must be met.

Note that HPAs could previously be drawn up on an informal basis but were not very common (and were in any case not binding), so it remains to be seen how enthusiastic stakeholders will be given the possible implications of these changes, including resourcing issues for local planning authorities.

  1. Local Listed Building Consent Order: A local planning authority can now make a local listed building consent order for any alterations or extensions to certain types of locally listed buildings or listed buildings in a certain area (but such an order will not give consent for demolition). Conditions may apply and consultation and publicity requirements must be met. A model form consent order is attached to the regulations.
  2. Certificate of Lawfulness of Works to a Listed Building: To establish whether a proposed alteration or extension to a listed building requires listed building consent, an applicant can now submit a form to the local planning authority. If the authority is satisfied that the proposed works do not affect the listed building's character as a building of special architectural or historic interest, they must issue a certificate stating that the works are lawful. A model form of certificate of lawfulness of proposed works is attached to the regulations.

These changes are intended to streamline the heritage system and clarify the extent of listing of a building or buildings, as well as assisting with transparency of the process of obtaining consent for works to a listed building. The effectiveness of each measure remains to be tested.

3. New permitted development rights in force from 6 April 2014

Following a government consultation in 2013 on greater flexibilities for certain changes of use, new regulations came into force on 6 April 2014 which introduce a range of new permitted development rights allowing certain changes of use without the need for express planning permission.

The new rights are:

  • Shops can change to homes: new rights allow shops (A1) and financial and professional services (A2) to change use to a dwelling house (C3), with a prior approval process to assess the impact of loss of the retail unit and whether there is a reasonable prospect of it being occupied by another retail use. Prior approval will be required in respect of design, transport and flooding.
  • Shops can change to banks: new rights allow retail units (A1) to change to banks and building societies. Restrictions mean that the use cannot then be changed to another A2 use without planning permission, to prevent banks and building societies being changed to betting shops or payday loan shops.
  • Farm buildings can change to homes: new rights allow a change of use from agricultural buildings to dwellings (C3). Prior approvals will cover location, siting and design of any conversion as well as transport and flooding and other impacts. There are size restrictions, and total demolition and new build will not be permitted, to preserve historic barns.
  • A range of buildings can change to nurseries: new rights allow offices (B1), hotels (C1), residential institutions (C2), secure residential institutions (C2A) and assembly and leisure facilities (D2) to change to nurseries providing childcare. Prior approvals will include transport, highways and noise impacts.
  • Farm buildings can change to schools or nurseries: new rights will allow a change from agricultural buildings to state funded schools or nurseries, with certain restrictions.  

As always, changes under permitted development rights will be required to meet habitats, environmental and heritage legislation requirements where relevant. And local planning authorities can chose to opt out of permitted development rights by issuing Article 4 Directions so that express planning permission will be required in those areas.

The expansion in permitted development rights is intended to help streamline the planning system and increase flexibility between use classes. These changes also aim to increase the supply of homes in the country, make it easier to re-use retail units and farm buildings, and assist with making childcare facilities more widely available.

In the 2014 Budget, the government also outlined further proposals which it intends to consult on, to allow warehouses and light industrial buildings to change to homes and to introduce wider retail use classes, so further changes to permitted development rights could be on the horizon.