Although not announced in the Queen’s Speech, the Growth and Infrastructure Bill was introduced by the Government on 18 October 2012 and its second reading took place on 5 November 2012. It seeks to address concerns that the planning system hinders sustainable growth and to implement a number of recommendations from the Penfold Review of nonplanning consents.
The Bill’s main planning provisions are:
- To permit certain planning applications (or related listed building or hazardous substance consents) to be made directly to the Secretary of State if the Local Planning Authority (LPA) has been ‘designated’. The Bill does not set out the circumstances in which an LPA would be ‘designated’ but Government statements suggest it would be those with a “consistently poor performance in the speed or quality of its decisions”. The criteria to be applied in assessing which LPAs will be designated are to be issued “in such a manner as the Secretary of State thinks fit”.
- To limit the powers of LPAs to require information to support planning applications so that only information which is “reasonable given the nature and scale of the proposed development” and is likely to be a “material consideration” in determining that the application is required.
- To allow developers with an affordable housing requirement to apply to the LPA for the modification or discharge of affordable housing provisions set out in section 106 agreements in order to make development viable. The term: ‘not economically viable’ is not defined. The developer may appeal to the Secretary of State if the LPA does not modify the affordable housing requirement as requested.
- To enable the procedure for the stopping up or diversion of highways and public paths under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to commence before planning permission has been granted.
- To amend the scope of the special planning regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects to include significant commercial and business development (excluding housing development) so that they may pass through the planning system quicker. The Bill enables the Secretary of State to make regulations (which would need parliamentary approval) setting out the prescribed projects.
- To put restrictions on the right to register land as a town or village green on the occurrence of ‘trigger events’ concerning development of land. Trigger events include where an application for planning permission is first advertised and where a draft or final development plan or neighbourhood development plan identifies the land for potential development.