Planning reform round up.

Article by Jonathan Finch of Avalon Planning and Heritage.

Following the ascension of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act on 26th October 2023 and indeed since the last PDF Plymouth event, it feels like there has barely been a week go by when there hasn’t been some sort of planning reform publicised. We’ve not only had a new NPPF introducing new requirements for LPA’s to demonstrate a five years housing land supply (and of course another numerical adjustment on Paragraph 80/84’s to keep architects on their toes), but changes to solar development permitted development rights, the long anticipated arrival of BNG for major developments, further consultation on changes to householder permitted development rights, changes to Class MA permitted development rights, news of an introduction of a new use class and associated permitted development rights for short term lets (including a mandatory national register) and this week a consultation on an accelerated planning system!

And if that wasn’t enough, last week the High Court handed down a landmark judgement on M&S’ proposals for replacement of their historic Oxford Street store quashing the Secretary of State’s refusal of permission against his Inspector’s recommendation to approve, bringing the debate around re-use, retrofit and embodied carbon back to the forefront (see our last article).

Keeping form with the seemingly accelerated pace of planning reforms, and in anticipation of our next get together in Plymouth, we thought it apt to highlight the most recent consultation published this week (closing on 1 May 2024) which sees DLUHC trying to tackle the pace at which applications are being determined. To this extent, the consultation proposes the following:

  1. As touted in the Autumn Statement 2023, the introduction of a new Accelerated Planning Service for major commercial applications with a decision time in 10 weeks and fee refunds if this is not met. This is intended to be a mandatory service offer with a premium application fee aimed at fully covering the cost of the LPA delivering the service with a fee guarantee refunding (some or all) the cost if not delivered within the 10-week period, even if an extension of time is agreed. This would not be available to EIA development, development subject to Habitats Regulations Assessment, development within the curtilage of designated Heritage Assets, minerals and waster development or for retrospective development.
  2. Change the use of extensions of time, including ending their use for householder applications and potentially only allowing one extension of time for other developments. This is linked to a proposed new performance measure for Local Planning Authority speed of decision-making against statutory time limits and the publication in June 2024 of a very interesting live Planning Performance Dashboard tracking all LPA’s decision-making performance;
  3. Expand the current scope of the simplified expedited written representations appeals process for householder and minor commercial appeals to more appeals including refusal of RMAs, LBC’s, TPO’s, CLUED’s and those relating to discharge/removal of planning conditions (excluding appeals against non-determination or an enforcement notice);
  4. Further detail on the broadening of the ability to vary a planning permission through Section 73B applications (a variation of both the descriptor and conditions of an existing permission) and the treatment of overlapping permissions

There are clearly some interesting objectives and proposals that we are still digesting and I am sure their ultimate effectiveness and delivery (many requiring secondary legislation) will be subject to great debate…and where better to do so than within the PDF network. Avalon continues to monitor and keep track of the ever-evolving planning landscape factoring both immediate and emerging changes into our planning strategy advice, so please do get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the recent reforms and implications on your projects further.



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