Housing bill outlines 'planning in principle' for allocated land

The government is proposing taking powers to grant automatic planning consent on any land allocated within a development plan document.

The radical move, included in today’s Housing and Planning Bill, would see councils’ subsequent role confined to agreeing as yet undefined technical details.

An explanatory memorandum to the bill explains that the government intends to give "automatic" permission to housing schemes on sites allocated for that use in local plans, neighbourhood plans and new brownfield registers, subject to certain criteria to be set out in a development order.

The memorandum adds that an alternative route for gaining permission in principle - via consent granted in response to an application - will be limited to minor housing schemes involving the creation of fewer than ten units.

The government has not yet stipulated any limit to the size or location of housing schemes that would be given permission in principle due to being located on a site allocated in a local plan, neighbourhood plan or brownfield register.

There are no details in the bill on what criteria will be covered in the technical details stage. The government says that it intends to consult on the details of this process "in due course".

The bill also proposes amending the 2008 Planning Act to allow applications considered under the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime to contain an element of housing.

Explanatory notes released by the government alongside the bill said the housing could either be required for workers during the construction phase or where there is no functional link to the infrastructure but the site is geographically close.

The government said it will set out the amount of housing that could be provided under this provision. But Angus Walker, planning and infrastructure partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, told Planning that the indication was that this could be around 500 homes.

Elsewhere in the bill, the government is proposing to amend the arrangements under which developers can bypass poorly performing local authorities and submit planning applications directly to the secretary of state.

The explanatory notes say: "For example, if a local planning authority was designated for its performance in determining non-major applications, it may be appropriate for certain minor applications to continue to be dealt with at a local level."

Another change outlined in the draft legislation would require reports to planning committees outlining financial benefits likely to accrue to a local authority if a proposed development is carried out.

The bill also provides more detail on how the government is proposing to force councils to provide more "starter homes", which will be provided for sale at a maximum of 80 per cent of market rates.

A new general duty would be imposed on every English council to "carry out its relevant planning functions with a view to promoting the supply of starter homes in England". This would apply to local plans and the duty to cooperate on strategic matters as well as individual planning applications, the explanatory memorandum says.

It is proposed that the secretary of state may introduce regulations providing that a council may only grant planning permission for a residential development meeting certain criteria if they include a set number or proportion of starter homes or a payment to provide starter homes.

Under the bill, councils would be required to produce progress reports on the provision of starter homes and the secretary of state would obtain powers to direct them to ignore policies that clash with this policy aim.

This article was amended at 14:20 on 23 October 2015 to make clear that the government's current intention is to give "automatic" permission to housing schemes on sites allocated for that use in local plans, neighbourhood plans and the new brownfield registers, subject to certain criteria to be laid out by a  development order. The original article stated that the government's intention was at this stage to limit permission in principle to brownfield housing schemes of fewer than ten units. In fact, it is the alternative route for gaining permission in principle - via consent granted by a planning authority in response to an application - that the government currently intends to limit to housing schemes of fewer than ten units, but it has not said that it will limit the application route to brownfield schemes. The government has not yet stipulated any limit to the size or location of housing schemes that would be given permission in principle due to being located on a site allocated in a local plan, neighbourhood plan or brownfield register, although a subsequent development order may do so.

Picture by Maurice on Flickr


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