Simplifying Planning in the Post Brexit World

4th January, 2017

Despite successive Government’s attempts at reform and improvement, it is clear that there is still an urgent need to simplify the planning process to make it fit for purpose so that it is part of the solution to boosting housing and infrastructure delivery rather than part of the problem. That need is all the more pressing in the context of Brexit and the continuing pressure on local government finance. The current Government response has been to introduce a number of measures, that while far from the comprehensive reform many are calling for, collectively may have positive impact.

Some examples in recent months are the ‘Permission in Principle’ idea, now confirmed in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. ‘PIP’ is targeted at boosting housing supply and is designed to separate out headline issues to establish the principle of development before embarking on the costly technical details. Linked to this, local authorities are now required to maintain registers of brownfield sites suitable, in principle, for residential development.

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill, published in September, seeks to clarify and strengthen localism, but also includes proposals to significantly reduce the scope for pre-commencement planning conditions. Proposals include requiring the agreement of the applicant before imposing any pre-commencement requirements. This initiative follows on from the tightening of timescales allowed for the determination of details reserved by condition.

Simplified planning in the form of local development orders (‘LDOs’) has gained in popularity, especially for employment sites but also increasingly in the residential sector. While LDOs are ‘owned’ by the local planning authority and effectively remove the need for planning permission provided that schemes comply with specified development parameters, they can be very useful tools for strategic sites, especially where they are prepared in partnership with landowners.

A Housing White Paper is expected this month to address further measures to boost the supply of housing, including a review of density guidance, and planning fees. Revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are also on their way, having been delayed over the summer and presumably being reviewed by the new Secretary of State for DCLG, Sajid Javid.