Conservatives 2013: Permitted development changes 'will cause confusion'

The government's relaxation of permitted development rights for household extensions 'will lead to confusion and uncertainty', according to a Tory member of an influential Parliamentary committee.

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Mark Pawsey, who serves on the Communities and Local Government (CLG) select committee, was speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester at a fringe event on housing organised by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).

In May, the government introduced new permitted development rights allowing homeowners to build larger extensions without the need for planning permission. At the same time, it also extended permitted development rights to the change of use from offices to homes.

Both measures prompted fears among local authorities about, respectively, an increase in unsightly developments and a loss of employment space.

Pawsey said: "I'm not comfortable with the changes we've made to permitted development rights particularly to extensions. The planning system needs some certainty.

"[The change is] a drop in the ocean [economically] and will lead to confusion and uncertainty.

"I'm also anxious about the flexibility over change of use, for example from office to residential. Let's have it go through the planning system, because there will be implications."

Pawsey also criticised Labour party plans, announced at its conference last week, to take action against developers who sit on 'land banks'.

He said: "All the developer has to do to circumvent that is to simply delay bringing the application forward. And we will simply delay the production of new homes."

The MP went on to say that delays to development were being caused by statutory consultees to planning applications, such as government quangoes, because of late responses.

He called for the introduction of tighter time limits for such consultees to respond otherwise their submissions would not be taken into account.

Chris Tinker, board director of housebuilder Crest Nicholson, said planning minister Nick Boles was "really worried" about this consultation issue and had hosted meetings between developers and Natural England.

He said: "There are massive challenges to get these statutory consultees to engage in a positive way."

Mike Jones, the leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Local Government Association's (LGA's) housing and environment board member, said he had also met Boles about this issue.

He said: "Our problem is that we consult with these bodies too much anyway. If we actually consulted them at the local plan stage in principle, when it comes to planning applications we shouldn't need to consult them unless it's outside the plan."

In a further effort to speed up the process, Jones went on to say that there was "agreement pretty much across the industry" that draft section 106 planning gain agreements should form part of pre-consultation discussions.

Members would then approve it along with the application at the planning committee stage, he added, so members understand what has been agreed and developers have certainty.

"It's a much more open and transparent process.

"The only people who are not happy with that at the moment for some reason is CLG [the Department for Communities and Local Government]" he said.

For all of Planning’s 2013 conferences coverage click here. 

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