´╗┐Growth and Infrastructure Bill

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which was published and presented to Parliament in October, was described by the Prime Minister as being about helping our country compete in the global race and building an aspiration nation where we back those who want to get on in life.  Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government described the provisions in the Bill as common sense reforms which will support local jobs and local firms.  He said that they complement changes delivered through the Localism Act, from streamlined planning guidance and, shortly, from the local retention of business rates.

The Bill includes measures relating to planning, commons, inquiries, communications, and economic measures.

Planning

The Bill proposes to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to allow an applicant for planning permission to submit an application to the Secretary of State instead of the local planning authority, where the local planning authority is designated by the Secretary of State for the purposes of the relevant section (section 62A) and the development to which the application relates is or for which outline planning permission has been granted, is of a description prescribed by the Secretary of State.  Section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 specifies that the following may not be designated for the purposes of that section: the Homes and Communities Agency, the Mayor of London, a Mayoral development corporation, and an urban development corporation.  The Secretary of State may give directions, requiring a local planning authority to do things relating to an application made to the Secretary of State under section 62A that would otherwise have been made to the authority.  The Secretary of State will be required to publish the criteria that will be used to decide whether to designate an authority for the purposes of section 62A.

The Bill will also limit the power in section 62 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for local planning authorities to require information with planning applications, so that this is restricted to requirements which are reasonable, having regard to the nature and scale of the proposed development and which it is reasonable to think will be a material consideration in the determination of the application.

The Bill makes provision, by amending the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for a person against whom an affordable housing requirement in a planning obligation is enforceable to apply to the appropriate authority for the requirement to have effect subject to modifications; or to be replaced with a different requirement; or to be removed from the planning obligation; or for the planning obligation to be discharged.  The authority must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State and must give notice of its determination to the applicant within such period as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

The Bill proposes to amend section 233 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which provides local authorities with power to dispose of land held for planning purposes.  The amended section would provide for the Secretary of State to give consent in relation to particular disposals or in relation to a particular class of disposals, in relation to local authorities generally or local authorities of a particular class, and either unconditionally or subject to conditions.  The amended section would also apply to such disposals the protection which section 128(2) of the Local Government Act 1972 gives to purchasers in respect of certain land transactions whereby a disposal of land is not to be found to be invalid because of a failure to obtain the required consent or to comply with requirements for advertisements or consideration of objections.

The Bill will amend the provision in section 253 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 relating to the procedure in anticipation of planning permission.  This is expected to have the effect of broadening the circumstances in which the power to stop up or divert a highway may be used.

The Bill makes amendments to the current regime of fixed reviews of minerals permissions under the Environment Act 1985, to give mineral planning authorities some discretion over when reviews are required.

Commons

The Commons Act 2006 will be amended by the Bill.  It will provide for the owner of land to deposit with the commons registration authority a statement in a prescribed form  which will be regarded, for the purposes of section 15, as bringing to an end any period during which persons have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land to which the statement relates.  The statement must be accompanied by a map which identifies the land to which the statement relates.  Each commons authority must keep a register containing prescribed information about such statements and the maps that accompany them.  The Bill will also impose new restrictions on the right to register land in England as a town or village green.  The right will cease to apply if a specified event for this purpose (a trigger event) occurs.  The right will become exercisable again if a specified event for this purpose (a termination event) occurs.

In practice, the amendments may result in opportunities to register town and village greens becoming more limited than they have been in the past.  However, this needs to be balanced against the opportunities that the Localism Act 2011 has given to communities to take action to protect land that they consider to be an asset of community value.  The Localism Act 2011 has introduced rights for parish councils, community councils, and voluntary and community bodies with a local connection to nominate land in their area for inclusion in the relevant local authority’s list of assets of community value.  If land is included on such a list, there are restrictions on the disposal of that land, which are intended to ensure that community interest groups have the opportunity to be treated as potential bidders for the land.

Other infrastructure provisions

The Bill amends infrastructure provisions in various Acts. These include:

  • The Energy Act 1976, the Electricity Act 1989 and the Planning Act 2008 are amended, to repeal the requirements for persons who propose to carry out works for the establishment or conversion of electricity generating stations to be fuelled by crude liquid petroleum, any petroleum product or natural gas, the associated penalties for failure to comply with these.
  • The Gas Act 1986 is amended, so that the provision for a licence holder to be required to make payments to other licence holders does not include reference to the holder of a licence under section 7A.
  • The Electricity Act 1989 is amended to make provision for a person who is entitled to the benefit of a section 36 consent (consent for the construction or extension of a generating station) to apply to the appropriate authority for the consent to be varied.  The appropriate authority is the Scottish Minister in a case where the section 36 consent relates to a generating station or proposed generating station in Scotland, the Marine Management Organisation in a case where the section 36 consent was granted by it, and the Secretary of State in other cases.
  • Section 90 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is amended so that, on granting or varying a consent under section 36 or 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 in relation to a generating station or electric line in England, the Secretary of State may give a direction for planning permission to be deemed to be granted for development.  The Secretary of State may also give a direction for planning permission to be varied.
  • The Bill would repeal the special parliamentary procedure requirement under the Planning Act 2008, which applies to certain orders granting development consent  which authorise compulsory acquisition of land belonging to a local authority or statutory undertaker.  The Bill would also amend the Planning Act 2008, to add additional circumstances in which the special parliamentary procedure requirement which applies to  certain orders granting development consent  which authorise compulsory acquisition of land forming part of a common, open space, fuel allotment or field garden allotment would not apply.
  • The Bill would amend the Planning Act 2008, to make provision for the Secretary of State’s power to give a direction for development to be treated as development for which development consent is required to apply to projects in the field of energy, transport, water, waste water or waste, and to business or commercial projects if those projects are in specified areas and the Secretary of State thinks those projects are of national significance.

Inquiries

The Bill amends various Acts (the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992, the Acquisition of Land Act 1981) to make provision for orders as to the payment of costs.

Communications

The Bill amends section 109 of the Communications Act 2003 to add the need to promote economic growth in the United Kingdom to the matters to which the Secretary of State must have regard when making regulations about conditions and restrictions on the application of the electronic communications code.

Economic Measures

The Bill amends section 41 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, so that the requirement to compile local rating lists on 1 April 1990 and on 1 April every fifth year afterwards is amended so that a billing authority in England is required to compile such a list on 1 April 2017 and in every fifth year afterwards rather than on 1 April 2015 and 1 April in every fifth year afterwards.

The Bill also amends the Employment Rights Act 1996 to introduce provision for individuals who meet certain criteria to be identified as an employee owner of the company that employs them and for such individuals to be excluded from some rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and for some provisions in the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 and the Paternity and Adoption Leave Regulations 2002 to apply to such individuals with modifications.

Progress of the Bill and Conclusions

The Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on 5 November 2012.  Its committee stage is scheduled for 13 November 2012.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill has proposed a wide range of changes but at first sight some of these may seem to be limited.  In order to assess how the Bill may help to build an aspiration nation as expected by the Prime Minister, it is necessary to consider the Bill alongside other legislation, such as the provisions relating to community empowerment and to planning contained in the Localism Act 2011.