Government moves to 'expedite' consents for inland border facilities in 29 council areas as Brexit deadline looms

The government has moved to grant itself powers to "expedite the planning process" for temporary "inland border facilities and infrastructure" within 29 council areas across England, as part of its preparations for the UK's departure from EU trade arrangements.

Haulage: 'changes' to border arrangements on the way (pic:  Wildlife Terry, Flickr)
Haulage: 'changes' to border arrangements on the way (pic: Wildlife Terry, Flickr)

Last week, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published the Town and Country Planning (Border Facilities and Infrastructure) (EU Exit) (England) Special Development Order 2020.

A transition period under which the UK still operates under EU trade rules is due to end on 31 December this year.

An explanatory memorandum to the new special development order (SDO) says that, after this date, "whether or not an agreement is reached on the new relationship between the UK and the EU", there will be "changes" to border controls.

According to the memorandum, the order "grants temporary permission for inland border facilities and infrastructure associated with this use that are urgently needed and of national importance in respect of security and the trade of goods, including essential goods".

The powers within the order, which comes into effect on 24 September, expire on 31 December 2025.

Reinstatement works must be completed no later than 31 December 2026, the notes explain.

The memorandum says the SDO route has been chosen "because it allows permission to be granted in a timely manner (in view of the urgent need for border processing facilities to be developed) whilst also providing effective mechanisms to ensure development is appropriate".

It adds: "Special development orders are a long-established part of the planning system, designed for handling planning proposals of national significance. This Special Development Order will expedite the planning process and is therefore critical to the urgent delivery of nationally important border facilities."

The document says that, under the measures, the temporary planning permission granted by the SDO "can only be implemented by, or on behalf of, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport".

The housing secretary will consider all applications, the memorandum says, with applicants needing to "submit an evidenced proposal for his consideration".

The permission also requires separate ministerial approval of a "Construction Management Plan (CMP), Operational Management Plan (OMP), and Reinstatement Plan to control the effects of the development during its lifecycle".

In addition, the document sets out several restrictions on the location of proposed sites.

It says that development "that would have significant effects on the environment is not permitted nor is development permitted on land within sensitive areas such as protected environmental habitats, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and European sites".

The memorandum says that the use of any specific site will be negotiated with the landowner "by a third-party mediator (acting for the relevant border department) on market-rate terms and will not disrupt any existing business operations without compensation".

The council areas identified in the SDO are:

  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
  • Cheshire East Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Devon County Council
  • Dorset Council
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council
  • East Sussex County Council
  • Essex County Council
  • Halton Borough Council
  • Hampshire County Council
  • Hull City Council
  • Kent County Council
  • Lancashire County Council
  • Leicestershire County Council
  • Liverpool City Council
  • Medway Council
  • North East Lincolnshire Council
  • North Lincolnshire Council
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Salford City Council
  • Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Somerset County Council
  • Southampton City Council
  • Suffolk County Council
  • Thurrock Council
  • Trafford Council
  • Warrington Borough Council
  • Warwickshire County Council

Commenting on Twitter, Mark Tewdwr-Jones, professor of cities and regions at the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London, described it as "a planning change like no other".

He said: "This order enforces land requisition and building without local authority control or public engagement."

Three previous SDOs for such works on land within the North Weald Airfield site in Essex, Waterbrook Park in Sevington, Kent, and Ebbsfleet International Station, also in Kent, are due to expire at the end of 2020.

The MHCLG was asked for further details on the status of the existing three SDOs and further details on how sites would be selected but it had yet to respond at time of publication.

Have you advised on, or secured, a recent major permission? We want to know about big housing, retail and leisure, and commercial and industrial schemes approved between 1 June - 31 August 2020 for our next Biggest Permissions report. To qualify, schemes should be above the following thresholds: 500 homes; 5,000 square metres of retail or leisure space; or 20,000 square metres of commercial or industrial space. To get involved, or for more details, please email by 10 September.

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