The Growth and Infrastructure Bill finally received Royal Assent on 25 April. Amending existing legislation, it introduces a number of reforms that will affect the planning application process.
The following main changes are made with immediate effect:
- Certain 'trigger' events will now prevent land being registered as a town and village green. These 'triggers' include an application for planning application already submitted for development of the land in question. The right to register may revive where such planning permission expires or after rights of appeal against refusal have been exhausted.
- The ability to reconsider economically unviable affordable housing provisions in Section 106 Agreements has been put on a formal statutory footing in England for an initial period of three years.
- The proposed sweeping changes to residential permitted development rights have been watered down so that if a neighbour objects the LPA will have to consider whether it would have an 'unacceptable impact'. It is noted that such rights of objection do not appear to extend to any other party (such as a local councillor).
- It brings commercial and business development projects of national significance (and of a prescribed nature) within the Planning Act 2008 'development consent' regime.
The following changes commence on 25 June 2013:
- The statutory procedures for stopping up/diversion of public highways/footpaths will be able to run concurrently with planning applications.
- The Secretary of State is empowered to make regulations for registration authorities to charge fees (amounts to be confirmed) for town and village green applications.
The following measures will only come into force on a day or days to be appointed by the Secretary of State in due course:
- Major planning applications and reserved matters approvals relating to them will be allowed to be made directly to the Secretary of State in those cases where the LPA has been designated as under performing. Regulations will define what a 'major' application is for these purposes.
- Planning Inspectors' powers to award costs will be extended.
- Controls will be introduced on the amount of information/documents required by LPAs in support of planning applications so as to limit that to documents/information reasonably required for registration/determination. This will hopefully resolve some of those current issues with LPA 'Local Lists'.
- The current two year period for applicants to register land as town and village green following cessation of the qualifying user period will be halved. That qualifying user period will also be suspended where the landowner has deposited those documents referred to in the Act with the registration authority.
The Government believes the changes will remove or in some cases reduce the scope for obstacles to development proposals and ultimately boost investment, growth and jobs.
Time will tell whether these objectives will be achieved, but any reduction of 'red tape' associated with the planning process and related procedures is to be welcomed.
As ever, we await the necessary detail in the Regulations and will provide further updates in due course.