The last few months have seen a stream of planning announcements.

Application fees

The proposed decentralisation of planning fees is proving more complicated than the Government had expected, so while discussions with local authorities continue there will be a one-off national increase in planning fees of 15 per cent to take account of inflation since the last increase in 2008.

Source: Department for Communities and Local Government: Proposals for changes to planning application fees in England: Consultation - Summary of responses

Neighbourhood planning

The neighbourhood planning provisions of the Localism Act 2011 came into force in August. This means planning permission can be granted by means of neighbourhood development orders and community right to build orders. The rules on assets of community value (the community right to bid) also came into force in September. However, further regulations are needed before the provisions relating to referendums in business areas will come into force. For more information see the Dechert OnPoint on the Localism Act and the article in the summer edition of Real World.

Extension of time to implement permission

The ability to extend the shelf life of a planning permission now applies to permissions granted on or before 1 October 2010 (previously the cut-off date was 1 October 2009). The change also applies to listed building consents and conservation area consents and to outline planning permissions intended to be implemented in phases where a phase has already begun.

Source: The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Amendment) (England) Order 2012.

Listed building consents

Two measures are to be introduced to reduce the regulatory burden on owners of listed buildings by removing the need to apply for listed building consent in certain cases. There will be power to give general consent for a class of works in an area so that no individual consent will be needed.  It will also be possible to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Works in respect of proposed works, which will remove the need to obtain consent.  These measures may be included in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which is currently going through Parliament.

Source: Department for Culture Media and Sport: Government response to the Consultation on Improving Listed Building Consent, October 2012.

Commercial to residential use

Two changes have been announced. The National Planning Policy Framework is to be amended to include a policy that planning applications for change to residential use and any associated development from commercial buildings currently in B use classes should normally be approved where there is an identified need for additional housing in the area, provided that there are not strong economic reasons why it would be inappropriate.

There is also to be an extension of permitted development rights allowing space above shops and other town centre uses (classes A1 andA2) to be converted into flats. The current rules permit conversion into a single flat; the amendment will permit conversion into two flats.

Source: Department for Communities and Local Government: Relaxation of planning rules for change of use from commercial to residential: Summary of consultation responses and the Government's response to the consultation.

Other proposals

In addition to the confirmed changes mentioned above, the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, currently in Parliament, contains a number of provisions designed to remove obstacles to development. They include provision for planning applications to be made directly to the Secretary of State where the local planning authority has been designated for this purpose (the intention being to avoid delays in local decision-making), widening the right to apply for the modification or discharge of an affordable housing requirement in a s.106 planning obligation which makes development economically unviable, widening powers to award costs in planning appeals, limiting information requirements for planning applications, limiting the ability to apply for land to be registered as a town or village green and extending the scope of the nationally significant infrastructure regime to include business and commercial projects of national significance. It is clear that the Government is serious about its policy of deregulation to boost growth.