Following the recent publication of a consultation paper on the subject, a few people have asked me about the provision in the Bill about including commercial/business proposals within the development consent regime.
At the moment, under the Planning Act 2008, significant infrastructure schemes such as transport and energy projects need development consent (rather than planning permission) and these consents are dealt with by the planning inspectorate under what is termed a "streamlined" regime. The new Bill would allow (at the applicant's request and if the Secretary of State regards the project as nationally significant) specified kinds of business and commercial development to follow the same route.
So what types of business and commercial projects might be affected? The consultation sets out some types and thresholds for consideration, along with criteria for determining whether a project is "nationally significant" but, importantly, schemes which include housing will not fall within the scope of the regime - and the proposal also is that retail development too would be excluded.
Potentially included, however are; office/R&D development of more than 40,000 sqm gross internal and mixed use schemes (excluding housing) of more than 100,000sqm.
Many commentators will say that this is another step away from localism - but it will be very interesting to see how well supported this proposal is. This is not just an issue for the development industry, but for business more widely and also for developers such as Universities who may find themselves in a position of making a choice under these provisions.