Layout, design and amenity matters Q & A DCP Section 4.13

This section deals with the scope of development control to influence the layout and design of new development and to consider the planning and amenity impacts stemming therefrom. Such matters are, of course, a fundamental part of development control. It is an area that has, and continues to, be a cause of contention between planners and architects and their clients.

Q & A    4.13/10

Do you know whether the use of habitable rooms per hectare for density calculation purposes, can be applied to uses such as nursing homes or sheltered housing. If not, what is the best way to gauge density?

The use of habitable rooms per hectare is the traditional method of measuring residential density but PPG3 refers to dwellings per hectare in setting standards for the most efficient use of housing land. This guidance may result in increased use of density calculations as a development control tool in order to establish whether advice as to minimum thresholds has been complied with. However, I very much doubt whether this practice would extend to residential institutions and, as now, contextual considerations relating to bulk and mass in relation to existing area character will continue to be determining.

We have been living in a house enjoying a view of the Avon valley. A 2 metre high fence has now been built on the intervening land obscuring this view. What legal protection do we have?

There is no "right to a view" which planning controls should seek to safeguard for the continuing benefit of an existing landowner, except where the view from a particular location is also a valued public asset. This was underlined by the judgement in Wood-Robinson v Secretary of State for the Environment (1998). Furthermore, this particular fence may not require express permission at all unless it exceeds two metres or is adjacent to a highway.

I am trying to find the status of the 1991 Building Research Establishment publication on Daylight and Sunlight. I have a dispute with a client, as it is my opinion that it is not used for development control purposes and carries little weight. Can you shed some light on the situation (excuse the pun)?

These standards are advisory and intended to be interpreted flexibly, but several local authorities, particularly in inner urban areas, have incorporated them into their development plans. In such a circumstance the BRE standards clearly carry considerable weight, but otherwise if a dispute arises at appeal inspectors will not necessarily regard non-compliance as fatal. In general, it is correct to say that the use of day lighting standards is no longer the universal development control tool that it used to be.

My working definition of plot ratio is the ratio between the total gross floor area of a building and the area of its plot, with half the road width normally included. This was the definition I was given when I worked as a planning inspector but I cannot find it in print anywhere. Can you help?

I have three separate planning textbooks which state that the site area for the purpose of plot ratio calculations should be calculated net of adjacent roads, although in no case is this assertion sourced. It seems that policies using plot ratio controls still survive in some contemporary development plans, particularly in London because of the historic use of this standard in the former Greater London Development Plan. I trust that these plans refer in their glossaries to the methodology to be used in calculating plot ratio.

Response

Your answer was right. The definition RS quoted refers to the Floor Space Index as defined in paragraphs 55 and 56 of The Advisory Handbook on the Redevelopment of Central Areas published by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning in 1947. Plot ratio was defined in the London County Council Development Plan Analysis of 1951 in terms more or less the same as given in your answer. Confusion often arises between plot ratio and density calculations and in the case of the LCC plan half the width of adjoining roads up to a maximum of 20 feet was included in the net site area for the purpose of density calculations.

An application is being considered for a six storey block of flats to be erected to the west of an urban cricket ground which is used occasionally to host first class fixtures. There are no conventional planning objections but the club authorities have objected strongly that the proposed building will block light from reaching the playing area at the end of the day and could curtail matches prematurely. Is this a material consideration which my council should take into account?

In general terms it is, of course, a proper function of the development control system to protect neighbouring land uses from the harmful effects of new development. A cricket ground is undoubtedly a land use which is of considerable public benefit, and if it can be demonstrated that its utility would be significantly diminished because of a new development then I have no doubt that this would be a material consideration. It is then a matter of determining how much weight should be given to the objection, and in the case in question whether harm to the cricket ground is sustainable as the sole ground of refusal.  I cannot identify an appeal case where this very unusual issue has arisen, but it would seem to me that this could be a situation where negotiation with the developers might lead to a design compromise following a careful technical assessment of light loss.

I am acting for a client wishing to build an infill house. The only problem is that the owner of an adjoining bungalow has erected a rear extension using permitted development rights which contains a bedroom lit by a flank window. There was no reason that the accommodation could not have been designed so that this bedroom was lit from the direction of the rear garden in the conventional fashion, but this was the way it was done.  Admittedly my client's proposal would severely reduce the light reaching the bedroom window, but is it reasonable for an objection to be made by the bungalow owner when the problem was of his own making?

Normally decision makers have to accept a situation as it is rather than as it ought to have been. However, a strong planning argument pulling in your clients direction is that his site is being effectively sterilised by this one window, preventing the erection of a new dwelling in line with national policy in PPG3. I might expect an inspector at appeal to take this fact into his reasoning and it is possible the balance would fall to your client if it was considered that the adjoining owner could readily remedy any lighting problem by rearranging his fenestration. However, this is a very unusual situation the outcome of which it is difficult to predict, and I wonder if any reader has ever been faced with this problem?

Response

The solution is first of all for to the questioner to ask the neighbour politely if he will relocate the window to an inoffensive frontage, and offer to pay the costs of so doing. Failing that, if it develops into neighbour row, a garden fence up to 2 m in height may be erected on his own land. This would effectively prevent most of the light reaching the neighbour's window and could bring matters to a head. I never recommend forcing the issue in this way, but it can work in difficult cases.

I understand that the questioner is currently trying to negotiate with the neighbour, on the lines that JD initially suggests.

I am pleased to say that an inspector in the case which prompted my question has allowed the appeal. He observed that the impact of the proposed dwelling on an existing side bedroom window would be substantial and conflicted with planning policy. However, he went on to say that the layout of the bungalow was changed by a previous owner to suit their own circumstances, and was acquired as such by the present owners.  He concluded that while the private interests of the bungalow were an important and material consideration these were outweighed by the greater public benefit represented by the appeal development.

A local Civic Trust is trying to devise a policy for a deposited UDP which would protect dwellings and workplaces from proposed excessively noisy development. As readers may know PPG24 and its Welsh derivative give Noise Exposure Categories for new dwellings in relation to existing noise sources, but the guidance does not apply to existing dwellings that might be affected by new development generating noise. Why is this? Is it quite impossible to devise such a policy?

As you say PPG24 is primarily concerned with the protection of proposed noise sensitive development. In practice, when considering applications for potentially noisy developments near to existing housing or employment uses, an assessment will often be made using BS4142 rating levels. If readers would care to send in details of approved policies in local plans which tackle this policy area, I will pass on any material received.

Three years ago the house next to mine was converted into student accommodation. To begin with there were no problems but noise has now become intolerable, in particular caused by the occupants running up and down stairs. The council tell me that there is nothing it can do as the conversion work was carried out in 1998.  Have you any suggestions as to what else further I can do?

I can only advise on planning matters, but I would have thought that a visit to the council department dealing with environmental health matters might be of help. The planning situation regarding the use of houses for student accommodation varies according to the mode of occupation. If students are living in a house on a communal basis, sharing costs and facilities, no planning permission is required for up to at least 6 residents and probably more. On the other hand, if the student use takes the form of bed-sits it will be considered to be multiple occupation, which does require planning permission.  If in the latter case no planning permission has been obtained there is no immunity from enforcement until ten years has elapsed, and I am not sure why the local authority seems to be referring to a four year period. This would only be relevant if the house had been converted to self-contained flats.

A local authority has refused planning permission because the formation of an additional flat in an already converted dwellinghouse has poor stacking and would cause noise problems to residents of the flats below. However, Building Regulations approval, including full soundproofing details PPG24 states that the government considers that the Building Regulations are the most appropriate means of control for sound insulation in conversions and that "…LPAs should not, therefore, use planning conditions to control sound insulation in such cases". However, it is my experience that local authorities continue to concern themselves about sound insulation of part floors, and indeed so do inspectors. Are you aware of a recent appeal decision where an inspector has ruled on this matter?

General advice in PPG1 Annex C states that "Planning legislation should not normally be used to secure objectives achievable under other legislation." The normal stance in decision making at appeal has been to follow this guidance insofar as alternative legislation may reasonably be relied on to resolve what would otherwise be a material planning objection. In terms of internal soundproofing in conversion schemes there is no doubt that this may be a material consideration as ruled in Newham London Borough v Secretary of State for the Environment and East London Housing Association [1986], but this judgment predates PPG24. Since then, as you state, conditions requiring the submission of a soundproofing scheme have been imposed by inspectors at appeal. Unfortunately I cannot lay my finger on an example where use of such a condition has been rejected in PPG24 terms. Can any reader help?.

Response

The authority that I work for insists on sound insulation in these circumstances. Its justification is that the sound insulation required under the Building Regulations deals with airborne noise but not noise transmitted through the building, so it is still desirable to insist on stacking. As far as I am aware the policy has not been challenged on appeal.

A pig farm was established in open countryside some 30 years ago but has now ceased. A tied cottage has been sold to a builder who resides there. Two large processing units have been leased for storage and my local council has before it an application for the residue of the land showing four rearing units to be converted for industrial use. There are no proposals to remove other pig sty buildings and the planning officers say that they can only deal with the application before them. Surely in the interests of good planning the question of the re-use or redevelopment of this farm should be dealt with on a comprehensive basis?

It seems that the initiation of the piecemeal change of use of this farm to non-agricultural purposes has already been agreed by the planning authority when allowing the storage use. However, if there are planning objections to be levelled at the latest proposals it is possible that these could be offset if the land owner were to agree to an overall plan for the holding incorporating planning and environmental benefits such as the demolition you mention. Failing such a negotiated solution, a condition may be applied to other land in the same ownership provided that it can be justified.

I wish to build a new house in the garden of my existing property, which is within the soon-to-be-adopted Review Local Plan. However, the local planning authority has indicated informally that the new house would overlook the existing property and affect residential amenity. I consider that this may be resolved by careful siting and landscaping. I believe that ‘overlooking’ and ‘amenity’ are very much subjective issues. Can you offer any relevant guidance or case history on this matter?

While it is true that many planning considerations rely on subjective judgements, such as visual impact etc, others may be informed by objective criteria or standards. Although these are not set out in relevant legislation or national policy statements, most authorities include advice on assessing matters such as maintaining acceptable levels of residential privacy in their locally adopted development plans, or in the form of supplementary planning guidance. These will normally specify minimum separation distances between facing windows to living rooms, the minimum sizes for private gardens and any code used to assess issues of daylight or sunlight. Your planning authority should be able to explain these to you. The term amenity is universally used but not defined in planning legislation. In the context you describe, it is now often replaced by the expression ‘living conditions’. If you proceed with a planning application and it is refused, there is, of course, a right of appeal to the SOS.

My client recently obtained a planning approval for a development of flat conversions, two of which will have first floor windows to habitable rooms (created by the conversion work), set back but close to a boundary. Three months before the approval was granted, the neighbouring owner submitted an application (yet to be determined) which would see a three storey wall built on the boundary, excluding much of the light to the habitable rooms. I have written to the authority with a formal objection, but it has yet to address the problem and seems unsure whether my client's planning approval, granted after the neighbouring application, can be used as grounds for objection. The situation seems to present interesting problems of protocol and priority. Please advise.

Your client’s existing planning permission for flats must be a material consideration in any assessment of development proposals on neighbouring land. In such circumstances it is normal practice, in my experience, to ensure as far as practicable that the proposed development currently under consideration would have an acceptable impact on that which has been recently approved. However, I am not aware of any specific guidance on this matter.

The term ‘scale’ is widely used in different planning contexts but is it defined anywhere?

The concept of scale is a difficult and ambiguous one and the word is often used simply as a synonym for size. In physical terms, the glossary to the DETR publication By Design [2000] explains that it can be the impression of a building when seen in relation to its surroundings, or the size of parts of a building or its details, particularly as experienced in relation to the size of a person. However, in relation to a use, the term will often mean its intensity.

I have recently moved from an authority which has a unitary development plan policy requiring 20 sq m of private amenity space for every habitable room in new and extended dwellings. My new authority has no such standard and relies instead on government advice. Although I have had difficulty finding this, my understanding is that the government views such matters as being largely for the developer, so long as some provision is made for refuse storage and the drying of clothes, and so forth. Where can I find relevant guidance?

The 1992 version of PPG3 explained that functional requirements within a development, including garden sizes, were for the most part a matter for the marketing judgement of developers, in the light of their assessment of their customers’ requirements. But this advice was not carried forward into revised guidance issued in 2000, which is now largely silent on amenity space provision. Instead, the note emphasises the need for good design and more efficient use of land through more flexible policies and development standards. Moreover, unlike in some other planning jurisdictions, there appears to be no national standard in other advice. Annex D of PPG3 refers to various sources of good practice advice, including the companion guide: Better places to live by design, which encourages an essentially qualitative approach to the planning of space around the home. But while inspectors will generally support the need for some private amenity space provision, often relying on standards set out in development plans or supplementary guidance, they will not endorse their rigid application if in a particular instance there is no evidence of harm to overall policy.

I have recently come across a decision where permission was refused for a two-storey rear extension to a single dwellinghouse because there would be a loss of outlook from and light to windows to the side of the proposed extension to the same dwellinghouse. Is this a legitimate reason for refusal?

PPG1 explains that the planning system exists to protect the amenities of land and buildings in the public interest rather than to safeguard individual interests. It could be held that it is in the public interest to protect internal residential amenity levels for the benefit of existing or future occupiers, but only if it is judged that some problem that would concern land-use planning would follow. This is the line normally taken by the Planning Inspectorate. However, it is a little difficult to envisage such circumstances here unless the resulting living conditions were so bad as to make the dwelling unusable as part of the housing stock. In the absence of clear government advice, the extent to which the planning system should control basic living requirements continues to be a matter for debate and it is fair to say that planning authorities and inspectors will often countenance lower levels of amenity for future occupiers than for existing residents affected by a development proposal.

My client’s site is allocated for housing in an adopted local plan. Although within a residential area, it adjoins an old factory that is also allocated for housing and its operators will be relocating shortly. However, a current application for housing on my client’s land is due to be refused because of noise from the factory. No acceptable screen or buffer can be provided and the planning authority appears unwilling to act against the factory on the grounds of nuisance. The noise is due to the current nature of the building, working practices and lorry movements. Would this objection become irrelevant once the factory is vacant and would any new occupier be subject to noise control without reference to any previous level of noise from the works?

It is difficult to comment on this without further details of the industrial activity and, in particular, the policies that apply to your client’s site, as these might make development contingent upon the residential redevelopment of the adjoining factory site. But while the effect of the site’s allocation for housing is to create a presumption in favour of its development, any decision on the application must also take into account other considerations. The impact of noise from the current industrial use is clearly a material factor. If that use has been long established, there is every chance that it is not subject to any planning condition limiting noise levels or hours of operation. In that case, both the existing operator and any subsequent occupier would be restrained only by the laws of statutory nuisance, which fall beyond the scope of planning control. Thus the only way in which the planning authority would be able to influence the industrial operation would be where there is a material change in use taking it outside the existing use class.

What for planning purposes is meant by the term "infrastructure"? The Oxford English Dictionary definition includes the phrase "subordinate parts of an undertaking", which could mean available services, and "permanent installations forming part of a defence", which could mean roads and buildings. Infrastructure is clearly a material planning consideration. But if it encompasses services do these include doctors and dentists’ surgeries, schools, the police, fire and rescue services?

"Infrastructure" is not defined in either planning law or guidance. However, for planning purposes it is a generic term for the structure of services which is necessary to support new development such as roads, drainage, water supply and a wide variety of essential community services. Paragraph 12 of the supplementary document "The Planning System: General Principles", published by ODPM alongside PPS1 in February 2005, confirms that "the availability of infrastructure" is a genuine planning consideration. But it offers no guidance on what this embraces. The advice of Circular 1/97 is however relevant. This gives examples of the type of infrastructural requirements for which it may be appropriate to seek a contribution from the developer and these include social, educational and community facilities. Although health facilities are not mentioned, the draft revised Circular, published in November 2004, does include "health" as an example. In addition, while there is no specific reference to the police and emergency services, the draft circular stresses that it is important that any planning obligations policy contained in a Local Development Framework has the potential to require contributions to "all aspects of public infrastructure" that may be affected by development. Circular 5/94 deals specifically with crime prevention and acknowledges that this is capable of being a material consideration.

A planning commentator recently criticised a local authority for publishing a leaflet explaining to members of the public that the loss of a view is not a material consideration when determining planning applications. However, I had always understood that to be the case and most local authorities seem to agree. What is your opinion?

Although PPG1’s advice that it is not the role of the planning system to protect private views is not repeated in current ministerial guidance, it is a long-established principle that nobody has a right to a view over another person's land. However, there may be instances where a private view coincides with an important view from public land that comprises an integral part of an area's visual character. The loss or serious impairment of such a view is unquestionably a material planning consideration. In addition, while it does not concern cherished views of any building or landscape, the effect of a proposed development on the outlook from habitable rooms or residential gardens may be a valid ground of objection where the development would appear visually intrusive and overbearing. The two considerations are quite different and should not be confused. In my opinion, the advice given by planning authorities on this matter is essentially correct.

Response

As the commentator concerned, while I confirmed that there is no legal right to a view, I pointed out that the loss of a view might well be seen as a detriment to the visual amenity enjoyed by a neighbour. The effect of the loss of a view on the residential amenity of a neighbouring property is clearly capable of being a material consideration, although the weight to be given to such a consideration is a matter for the decision-maker. The essential point is that it is wrong in law to state, as some planning authorities do in their advice leaflets, that the loss of a view cannot be taken into account in determining a planning application. If this issue is raised as an objection, it must at least be considered, even if it does not lead to a refusal when weighed with other matters. To dismiss the point out of hand could in certain circumstances lead to an application for judicial review.

In granting permission for a three-storey office building close to housing, my authority took no account of whether it would cause television interference. Now that it has been built, it is creating problems for residents with terrestrial reception. Ofcom says it has no powers to make the developer rectify the problem. I realise that the authority should have required the developer to carry out a "before and after" assessment and undertake any necessary mitigation measures, in line with PPG8. So is the authority now responsible for the problem or should it be tackled by the developer?

PPG8 advises that planning authorities will need to satisfy themselves that the potential for interference with analogue television reception by large structures has been fully taken into account in their siting and design. This matter is a material consideration and, as noted in Hunter v Canary Wharf Ltd [1997], can be serious for the aged, the lonely and the bedridden. While it would be reasonable to anticipate possible interference from tall structures such as tower blocks, stadia and wind turbines, I do not think that it could be clear that a three-storey building would significantly disrupt television reception unless it is located in an area already experiencing such problems. In these circumstances, the ombudsman might uphold a complaint against the council and recommend financial compensation. But I am otherwise unable to comment on the legal responsibilities of either the council or the developer in this matter.

Residents have expressed concern about light pollution and visual harm from the external illumination of large houses in a conservation area. This practice could have a significant impact on its character and appearance at night. Does external lighting at a dwellinghouse constitute operational development and require permission? PS.

This depends on whether the physical works of installing the lights had a material effect on the dwelling's external appearance and the extent to which it is affected when the lights are on. In Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea v CG Hotels [1980], the court ruled that the installation of floodlights had no material effect on a hotel and that while its appearance was affected when illuminated, that did not amount to development. However, inspectors have held that development has occurred where lighting has an extensive external presence, as detailed at 4.3151. In the case of a dwelling, even where development has taken place it is likely that this would be allowed by the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) 1995. If external lighting from an installation fixed to a listed building affects its character, listed building consent is required even where those works are not development. In certain circumstances, external lighting may be considered an advertisement and thus capable of control. A good practice guide on lighting in the countryside prepared by consultants in 1997 is available on the DCLG website. Although PPS23 indicates that an annex on planning and light pollution will be prepared for public consultation, this has not yet been issued. Amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 recently brought cases of severe light pollution from premises under the statutory nuisance regime.

A developer proposes to demolish two substantial houses with large gardens and build 6 new units. A similar 'garden grab' plot has just been developed in an adjacent cul-de-sac. This has taken two years to build, involving considerable noise and disturbance to residents, particularly due to the use of pile driving machinery due to poor ground conditions. Can you advise a) whether it could be argued that residents have suffered enough recently from noise and disturbance and that further disruption is unacceptable, and b) whether a non-sustainability case can be mounted on the basis that existing physical building capital, in the form of the existing houses, will be destroyed and, in the construction, additional energy, building materials, travel-miles, etc will be used unnecessarily. JB.

On your first issue regarding construction noise, this can be a material factor in determining a planning application, although I know of no case where it has been upheld as the sole reason for refusal. It is normally reasoned that construction noise is an inevitable temporary, manifestation of any development project, which is not the concern of the planning system unless there would be exceptional amenity harm. When this is the case, a planning condition restricting hours is often applied. In the situation you describe I think that the principle of fair administration would reject an ’enough and no more’ stance, as this would unreasonably discriminate against a developer that happened to come along second.

Your other point raises the interesting issue of whether the demolition of otherwise sound buildings is a matter to be weighed in the sustainability balance sheet.  In fact, it rarely arises as a planning consideration, as normally the more efficient use of land brought about by most redevelopments  far overrides any argument that it is more sustainable to retain existing buildings. It is also probable that new buildings will be more energy efficient than their predecessors. The only relevant appeal case I have been able to identify concerned a one-for-one house development where an inspector felt that this compromised the aims of sustainable development (DCS Number. 049-304-618). GH.

My authority has received several applications for domestic wind turbines. One issue under consideration is whether they would interfere with neighbouring television reception. PPG8 states that Ofcom has powers under the Wireless and Telegraphy Act 1949 for dealing with certain types of interference. Would these cover domestic turbines? If not, could such interference be mitigated by condition? AR.

The companion guide to PPS22 explains that a wind turbine can interfere with electromagnetic transmissions in two ways - by emitting an electromagnetic signal itself and by interfering with other such signals. But it adds that provided careful attention is paid to siting, turbines should not cause any significant adverse effects on television or radio reception. PPG8 advises that the body now known as Ofcom has powers to deal with the first type of interference under the 1949 Act. I see no reason why this should not cover any source of emission. However, where the potential for physical interference is suspected, the guidance says that authorities must ensure that this has been fully assessed because it will be "more difficult, costly and sometimes impossible to correct after the event". Since it may not be prudent to rely on other legislation in such circumstances, the authority should request details of how the applicant has tackled this issue. I am uncertain whether a condition could be framed to mitigate interference without failing the tests in Circular 11/95. Readers' views are invited. PM.

Does a dropped kerb require planning permission when it is on a classified road or is it not defined as development? I appreciate that in most cases the formation of an access involves an engineering operation and therefore needs permission. But what is the position where the works only involve lowering the kerb? In response to previous queries, you have said that permission is not required. However, the Directgov website says otherwise. Can you give a definitive answer?

Where the lowering of a kerb is carried out by the highway authority it will not constitute development by virtue of section 55(2)(b) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which exempts the carrying out of works by a local authority within the boundaries of a road. This was confirmed in a 1988 case in London, where an inspector stated that such work carried out by a local highway authority under section 184(11) of the Highways Act 1980 following a request from the adjacent householder was not development. However, other works that result in the creation of a means of access onto a classified road will require express planning permission. PM.

I work in the telecommunications industry. Recently an application for a telegraph pole style phone mast was refused permission because it would adversely affect neighbouring residents' outlook. This is despite the mast being around 30m from their main windows. The local authority is unable to justify its decision. Clearly, it is entitled to consider whether the structure is ugly. However, my understanding is that no-one has a right to a view and unless a development is so close and overbearing that a resident who previously enjoyed open views now suffers from a restricted outlook, this is not a material planning consideration. Am I right?

It is a long-established principle that nobody has a right to a view over another person's land. However, there may be instances where a private view coincides with an important view from public land that comprises an integral part of an area's visual character. The loss or serious impairment of such a public view and the effect of the development proposal on an area's visual amenity is unquestionably a material planning consideration. In addition, while it does not concern cherished views of any building or landscape, the effect of a proposed development on the outlook from windows to habitable rooms or from domestic gardens may be a valid objection where the development would be visually intrusive and overbearing. But from what you say, it is difficult to imagine why this would be the case in the circumstances you describe. PM.

An extension up to a boundary has been refused solely on the grounds that there would be no access for maintenance and therefore it is unsustainable.  The development plan policy referred to in the reason for refusal makes no reference for the need for access or that permission would be withheld if access is not provided. Do you agree that maintenance for either the development or a neighbour’s property is not a planning matter? MG.

Though the advice in former Planning Policy Guidance Note 1 that this is not a material consideration has now been withdrawn, I agree this is not a planning issue. I would advise appealing the decision. General advice on house extensions to boundaries is in section 12.2344 of Development Control Practice.

Response

Building up to a boundary and future maintenance are not a planning issue as JH states. It is, however, high time that planners and planning committees were made familiar with the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 which is described as 'An Act to enable persons who desire to carry out works to any land which are reasonably necessary for the preservation of that land to obtain access to neighbouring land in order to do so, and for the purposes connected therewith'. If agreement cannot be reached with the adjoining owner there is provision under the Act to obtain a court order so access can be made. PP.

A London Borough has informed us that they charge £1,000 + VAT for pre-application meetings in relation to sites over 1ha. Is there a legal basis to charge for such requests especially given the government encourages developers to carry out pre-application negotiation in the interests of positive planning? MP.

Under the provisions of section 93 of the Local Government Act 2003 local authorities may now charge for pre-application discussions. Fuller details of this can be found in section 5.121 of Development Control Practice. The level of charges is set by the planning authority though they should not be at a level whereby they make a "profit". Whilst I can fully appreciate the advantages of pre-application discussions, given the power to charge for them and many councils’ budgets being hard-pressed, I can also understand why such charges are made. JH.


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