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Last edited 03 Sep 2022
Fast track planning proposals
In August 2022, the government announced a fast-track planning route to speed up major infrastructure projects in England and Wales. The changes will support economic growth, improve transport links and enhance our energy security.
Major infrastructure projects such road improvements and offshore wind farms will be delivered more quickly through a new fast-track planning route. New powers will mean shorter deadlines can be set for examinations of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects – speeding up decisions and getting projects built more quickly. The relevant Secretary of the State – for example for Energy, Transport, Environment or Levelling Up – will decide whether to put the shorter deadline in place.
This also means decisions on smaller (non-material) changes to projects that have already been approved can be made much more quickly – currently these can take up to 16 months, sometimes causing significant delays to delivery.
The government will make the changes to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects process through amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. This announcement is part of plans to speed up the planning process for large-scale projects and builds on efforts in the government’s Energy Security Strategy to make sure the country is building the infrastructure it needs faster than before.
More than £750,000 has also today been awarded to 10 council-led projects to support innovation in ensuring the needs of local communities are reflected in the process. 'Councils and local communities will continue to play a key role in the planning process, including by producing local impact reports that represent the views of residents and must be taken into account. Only suitable projects will go through the new fast track process'
Amendments will be available for MPs to read when they return from recess on September 5 2022..
For more information visit gov.uk.
In March 2021, the government announced support for housing delivery and public service infrastructure:
- A new permitted development right for a change of use to residential to create new homes.
- Measures to provide public service infrastructure more quickly through expanded permitted development rights and a new streamlined planning application process for hospitals, schools and prisons.
- An approach to simplifying and consolidating existing permitted development rights following changes to the Use Classes Order
For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/supporting-housing-delivery-and-public-service-infrastructure
Fast track for public services: new planning reforms to speed up delivery of schools and hospitals consultation:
- New schools and hospitals to be delivered quicker through a faster, simpler planning process.
- New, simpler process for business premises to become new homes to boost town centres through brownfield development.
- The measures build on the Spending Review, confirming nearly £20 billion of investment in new housing and a £4 billion Levelling Up Fund to boost local economies.
For further information visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/fast-track-for-public-services-new-planning-reforms-to-speed-up-delivery-of-schools-and-hospitals
September 18 2020
The introduction of 2 pieces of legislation. The first were made on 24 June 2020 (SI 2020, No. 632) to allow the building of an extra two storeys on top of freestanding blocks of flats (of at least 3 storeys) without other services below, up to a maximum of 30 metres. This does not apply if the building was constructed before 1948, or after 2018.
For more information visit: The Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 632)
The second piece of legislation made on 21 July 2020 (SI 2020, No. 755) to allow the building of:
- An extra two storeys on top of existing 2-storey terraced, semi-detached or detached homes, either to create new homes or as an extension to existing homes up to a maximum of 18 metres and no more than 3.5 metres above the highest part of the terrace or the adjoined semi;
- One extra storey on top of bungalows and other single-storey homes.
- An extra two storeys on top of 2-storey buildings in a terrace in commercial uses (e.g. shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, offices), and in mixed-use with residential, up to a maximum of 18 metres and no more than 3.5 metres above the highest part of the terrace;
- One extra storey on top of single-storey buildings in a terrace in commercial uses and in mixed-use with residential.
- An extra 2 storeys on freestanding buildings in commercial uses (of at least 3 storeys) and in mixed use with residential, up to a maximum height of 30 metres.
For more information visit: Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 755)
The intentions behind these changes are described as giving 'homeowners the freedom to grow their home as their family grows. They will support development on brownfield land – making better use of our towns and cities – and, critically, create jobs for small builders and construction workers.'
There are exemptions for conservation areas, in National Parks, in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest, for buildings constructed before 1948 or after 2018 and listed buildings/scheduled moments. But the changes applied to England on August 1 for freestanding blocks of flats, and from August 31 2020 for the other rights.
For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/permitted-development-rights-and-changes-to-the-use-classes-order/fast-tracked-approval-for-building-upwards-key-facts-brief
August 2020 Planning for the future
The Planning for the future consultation proposed reforms of the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.
May 2016 Housing and Planning Act
The Housing and Planning Bill 2015 became law as the Housing and Planning Act 2016 on 13 May 2016. (Ref. Gov.uk Landmark Housing and Planning Bill receives Royal Assent.)
The original Bill was introduced to parliament on 13 October 2015 as part of what David Cameron described as a “national crusade to get homes built”. It included new powers to overrule councils considered ‘reluctant’ to build homes, and to enable Whitehall to engage with local communities directly to allocate land for new building and force housing schemes through the planning system.
The Bill aimed to speed up and strengthen the popular neighbourhood planning process by simplifying how plans could be revised as local circumstances change and ensure that plans came into force sooner once approved by local people. It celebrated going further than before to speed up neighbourhood planning to put power in the hands of local people to decide where development gets built. A simplifying of the compulsory purchase order process was included to make it clearer, fairer and faster, stating 'compulsory purchase is always used as a last resort but can be essential in delivering big and complex schemes.' Further measures of the Bill were intended to ensure that planning conditions which require developers to take action before work starts are only used where strictly necessary, but in a way that ensures important heritage and environmental safeguards remain in place, so that once a developer has planning permission they can get on and start building as soon as possible.
For more information visit Housing and Planning Act 2016
February 2016 fast track planning consultation
Seen as a radical new move proposed by government, councils were to be able to compete to process planning applications, in a way similar to passport services, being offered also as fast track applications.
Such proposals, which were put out to consultation on 18th February 2016, and saw to enable neighbouring councils or even private organisations to compete with local authorities. The government’s aim being to galvanise housebuilding and streamline the planning application process.
Ministers promoting the new pilot tests point to the ‘closed market’ in handling planning applications that lead to limited incentives for innovation and efficiency. Their hope was that this lack of incentive, which acted as a source of frustration for housebuilders and individual applicants, could be tackled by the proposals. They point to UK research studies conducted over the last 30 years that suggest cost savings of up to a fifth could be achieved by competitively tendered or shared services.
Developers will be able to choose between submitting plans to the local council, a competing council or a government-approved organisation. This organisation would have the power to process applications until the final decision, but the decision making itself will remain with local councils, in order to maintain the democratic link between local voters and local decision makers.
A consultation on competition pilots and fast track services includes proposals to make future increases in councils’ fees for applications dependent on their performance in terms of the speed and quality of decisions. Further details on how the pilots will run will be published after the consultation has closed.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “Council planning departments play a vital role in getting local housebuilding off the ground, but for too long they have had no incentive to get things done quickly or better, resulting in drawn out applications and local frustration. These proposals will be a boost for housebuilders looking to build much needed new homes for hard working families and first time buyers, and for local people looking to get a planning permission for home improvements through their local council quicker.”
Offering his support for the proposals, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “It’s very welcome news that the Government has listened to the concerns of industry over the sclerotic planning system. Across the country, SME house builders continue to be frustrated by a painfully slow planning process that is holding back the delivery of new homes. The numerous sources of delays and inefficiencies in the system impact upon house building rates, and act as a major deterrent to small developers who need to see speedy returns on their investments. Anything which encourages innovation and incentivises councils to deal with applications with greater urgency must be welcome. Local authorities need to be able to invest in their planning departments to put in place, and renew, their local plans. Fees, whether fast track or standard, need to be weighted to ensure that overall the system will be adequately resourced. The system as it stands is creaking – this new approach must be made to work and it cannot come soon enough.”
However, Labour MP Helen Hayes, a member of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said, "It weakens the accountability of local planning services and it removes with one hand the fees which the Government is enabling local authorities to raise with another. Fundamentally, it's a solution to a symptom of the problem of the disproportionate effect of local government cuts on planning departments. This is a symptom which we alleviated by the proper resourcing, which a system of new planning fees will facilitate. So I urge the Government to rethink this proposal, which simply undermines local planning departments."
Read the government press release and the published consultation report here.
Read our article on the pilot testing from January 2016 here.
Related articles on Designing Buildings
- CLC calls for rethink of permitted development rights.
- Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
- Government departments responsibility for construction.
- Government publishes UK infrastructure strategy.
- Heritage practice in England for balanced growth.
- Housing and Planning Act 2016
- Housing and Planning Bill 2015.
- Housing shortage.
- Levelling up the infrastructure agenda.
- Levelling up.
- Nationally significant infrastructure projects and housing briefing note.
- Pilots to test introducing competition in the planning process.
- Planning legislation.
- Planning for the future.
- Right to buy extended to housing association tenants.
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