On 18 June 2009, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued a consultation paper, 'Greater flexibility for planning permissions'.

DCLG has recognised that the downturn in the economy has caused a significant slowdown in the implementation of permissions for large scale developments. There are concerns that a significant number of permissions could lapse due to non-implementation, delaying an economic recovery. Section 51 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 reduced the default period for the lifetime of a planning permission from five years to three years.

The consultation is seeking views on whether to introduce a mechanism for extending the time limits for the implementation of existing planning permissions. It also considers how to implement the procedure for making non-material amendments to planning permissions under section 96A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Because the measures proposed by DCLG are in response to the economic downturn, they will only be temporary. The new measures for extending the time limit for existing permissions would be implemented by way of an amendment to the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995. The consultation paper outlines the following details:

  • Extensions will only apply to permissions which were granted on or before the date on which the measures come into force and only one extension per permission will be granted.
  • The extension will only apply to permissions for major developments.
  • The standard application form (1 APP) will be used.
  • Applicants will be able to provide additional information in support of their application. However, there is unlikely to be a need to submit further extensive information with the time extension application as this will have already been submitted with the original application.
  • The consultation proposals indicate a flat rate fee of £170 for the extension application.
  • An application to extend the time limit will be considered to be a new application for development under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 and as such an environmental impact assessment may be required.
  • In situations where a developer has entered into a Section 106 Agreement which refers to the planning application, the developer may be required to enter into a supplemental deed or new Agreement.

The above proposals will provide developers who are faced with permissions that are about to expire with an opportunity to apply to have the expiry date of the planning permission extended. Despite only being a temporary change in the law, it will be welcomed by developers who are struggling to finance developments in the current economic climate. The proposals should also have a beneficial impact on the economy as a whole as it will allow developments to proceed without undue delay.

The consultation closes on 13 August 2009 and indications are that the provisions will come into force on 1 October 2009.