The Queen’s Speech confirmed the Government’s intention to bring forward a Planning Reform Bill. Our contacts with Government indicate that the Bill will implement the proposals in the Planning White Paper.
In summary these are to establish an Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) for infrastructure projects, introduce National Policy Statements (NPS) and change the Local Development Framework System (LDF).
What will this mean in practice? NPS will set policy for matters such as energy generation, energy transmission, ports and airports. They will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and then will form Ministers’ last involvement in their planning process. Thereafter, planning applications that are in conformity with the NPS will receive permission from the IPC unless there is a conflict with national or international law. It will immediately be seen that these proposals are flawed as few planning applications, even those that are refused, are illegal. Something more is meant.
However, the power of the NPS will be considerable and it will be important for affected parties to participate in the process of drafting and approving them. It is likely that they will go through the Select Committee process so evidence will need to be submitted and in some cases it will be helpful to appear before the committee to make one’s point. The IPC will be an inquisitorial body sifting through large amounts of evidence. The potential for error is considerable, which will give rise to applications for judicial review.
The Planning Reform Bill is likely to also deal with the planning charge. The charge replaces the controversial proposals for Planning Gain Supplement (PGS). Points to watch are:
- what infrastructure forms part of the charge; and
- how the charge is allocated to development types and scope for reducing the charge through section 106 agreements.
The LDF will be the key document. The pitfalls of PGS are largely in the planning charge, such as ensuring infrastructure is actually delivered and the problem of double-charging.
The new LDF system is itself to be changed. More significant is the experience of the Planning Inspectorate, which is having to find many plans “unsound” and reject them because neither they nor their objections have had adequate sustainability appraisal. This is an important issue for objectors. Finally, the White Paper contained proposals for appeals against the refusal of planning permission to be heard in some cases by a group of members of the local planning authority and, surprisingly, these are to go ahead.
The Planning Bill was in fact introduced in the Commons on 27 November. It is a major Bill with 189 sections. We shall be issuing further information on it via Future Perfect?, our planning law e-newsletter.