The Government has prepared the Growth and Infrastructure Bill and it is currently going through the Houses of Parliament. The basic premise of the Bill is to stimulate the economy.

During the past 15 years, applications for registration of Town and Village Greens (TVGs) have been used by local residents in attempts to block development. Whether they were successful or not, the applications have caused significant delay and costs to those promoting development.

In order to claim that a TVG has been established, the applicant must show 20 years' use of the land by local residents, "as of right", for lawful sports and pastimes.

The Bill proposes to introduce a new procedure under which an owner of land may submit a statement to the registration authority which brings to an end any period during which local residents have used the land. The statement would not stop a further period commencing, so the owner would still need to take preventative measures, such as fencing and/or signage. The statement would be in a prescribed form and would have to follow a formal procedure to be set out in regulations.

In addition, the right to make an application to register a TVG is proposed to be withdrawn in certain circumstances. These include the publication of an application for planning permission, or where the land is identified in a development plan document or a neighbourhood plan as suitable for potential development.

While the Bill is at an early stage and may be undergo changes before it is passed, developers with land banks are advised to review their land holdings. If there are any which could be the subject of a TVG application, they are advised to consider the use of the new provisions as and when the Bill is enacted.

Other proposals in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Economically unviable planning obligations

The Bill proposes to allow a person against whom an affordable housing planning obligation (s106 obligation) is enforceable, to apply for it to be modified, replaced or removed. The application must show that to comply with the obligation would mean that the development would not be viable.

Regulations and guidance would follow if this proposal survives.

Applications for planning permission to be made directly to the Secretary of State

Where a local planning authority has a poor record of determining applications and is named in a list to be created by the Secretary of State, applicants for permission may choose to make their application direct to the Secretary of State.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects

The Bill proposes to allow the Secretary of State to give a direction bringing certain types of development into the development consent regime, by treating them as nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Consultation on the technical review of planning appeal procedures

The Government has published a consultation on planning appeal procedures.

In summary, the Government is considering changes to secondary legislation and guidance to bring into effect:

  • Earlier submission and notification of appeal statements - so interested parties see information earlier and can comment;
  • Agreeing 'common ground' upfront - so councils and appellants narrow the issues of dispute more openly and clearly;
  • Starting hearings and inquiries sooner - leading to quicker decisions, within agreed boundaries set for the Planning Inspectorate;
  • Introducing an expedited 'Commercial Appeals Service' - so some appeals on minor commercial developments follow a shorter process with a minimum of documentation;
  • Exploring opportunities for aligning other planning-related appeal processes - so that the number of Statutory Instruments (the legal rules and regulations) is reduced;
  • Issuing one guide to planning appeal procedures - as part of the drive to reduce planning guidance to a minimum.

The Planning Inspectorate is also taking steps to improve its online appeal process to speed up access to information. It may consider reviewing the appeal procedure determination criteria and its bespoke timetable service.