One stop shop

The government is expected to launch a consultation on extending the 'one stop shop' concept for the Planning Act 2008 regime next Thursday, 22 November.  My blog post back in January called for changes such as this, so I am expecting good news.

At present there are four types of consent as far as the Planning Act is concerned:

  • ones where the Planning Act regime replaces them, e.g. planning permission - there are 11 of these
  • ones where an outside consent can be included in a Planning Act application, but only if the original consenting body agrees
  • ones that were put in the Planning Act itself as a check against the then Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), and
  • any other consent, which general powers allow to be modified in an application

The Localism Act 2011 allowed the first category to be extended (or reduced) via secondary legislation, although no such legislation has appeared yet.  The consultation could involve adding consents to that category, but I think it is more likely to focus on the second category.  At present, 42 consents in England and 78 in Wales are in the category by virtue of a list in regulations made under the Planning Act.  I think that the consultation will involve deciding which consents could be taken out of the list (thereby putting them in the fourth category above).

As far as the third category above is concerned, the Growth and Infrastructure Bill is already slimming down special parliamentary procedure (SPP) and I am hopeful that it will be amended during its passage through parliament to remove some of the sections that require further certificates to be obtained in the Planning Act.  The one stop shop consultation might include these as well.

Impact assessment

Meanwhile, the government has produced an impact assessment of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.  Incidentally, the Department of Communities and Local Government website moved to the overarching www.gov.uk website yesterday, so any old links on my blog and elsewhere won't work any more.

The impact assessement - you might say the 'lamppost' for the bill - sets out costs and savings of the various elements of the Bill.  It reveals, for example, that around 90 applications a year are expected to benefit from the 'special measures' provision in the first clause of the bill, where applications can be made directly to the Planning Inspectorate for some authorities regarded as failing in their planning decision functions.

For the slimming down of SPP, the impact assessment says that two current applications under the Planning Act could suffer the same fate as the Rookery South project (latest: the joint committee didn't sit this week).  It estimates that between 10 and 20 business and commercial projects might use the regime per year if it was extended to them, and has a list of types of project that might be consulted upon as follows:

  • Warehousing and storage
  • Manufacturing and processing proposals
  • Office development, including research and development facilities
  • Extractive industries (mining and quarrying)
  • Major tourism proposals and leisure venues
  • Mixed -use developments (where this includes two or more of the above uses but does not include housing)

I'm not sure when that consultation is coming out, but it is supposed to be during the passage of the bill.  There is also a hint about the size threshold, namely 10,000 square metres of floorspace or 2 hectares or more of site area.  Interestingly, this is the same threshold as the government is expected to introduce for the general duty of pre-application consultation for planning applications under the Localism Act 2011, not yet in force.

Luckily (well probably on purpose, in fact), the Planning Inspectorate is gearing up for an increased number of projects.  In answer to a written question by shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods, planning minister Nick Boles said that the number of staff in the national infrastructure directorate would rise from 87.8 in 2012-3 to 134.1 in 2013-4 - more than a 50% increase.  The total was 52 in 2011-2 within the IPC, who seemed to prefer whole people.