Planning

The changes to date

The Government’s plan for the planning system extends beyond the Localism Bill, and upon gaining power with the Liberal Democrats in May, the Conservatives wasted no time setting the wheels of change in motion. In particular, two changes have been made with repercussions for the industry.

“Garden grabbing” banned

The practice known as “garden grabbing”, developing in the gardens of existing houses, was banned by amending PPS3, removing the classification of gardens as “previously developed land” (the same category as derelict factories and disused railway sidings) so that they will no longer be designated ‘Brownfield’.

Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies

Using delegated or secondary legislation, Eric Pickles, newly named as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, wrote to local authorities in June telling them, in effect, that Regional Spatial Strategies were no more. Instead of using the figures outlined in the local plans, councils were instead to refer to their “option one” figures until new targets could be consulted on.

This decision, recently declared illegal following a High Court challenge by CALA Homes, gave local authorities the power to tear up their Core Strategies and start again, basing site allocation and housing need on their own figures. This has caused widespread chaos and confusion at town halls across the country, with an already erratic planning system becoming even more painful.

Following the CALA Homes ruling, Pickles wrote to all authorities stating that the revocation of RSSs should be given “material consideration” when determining planning applications, a move described by one planner as “skating on thin ice”.

This case is ongoing, but the important point to note is that once the Localism Bill is enacted, it will supersede all previous High Court rulings.

Introduction of Local Enterprise Partnerships

Another immediate change the Conservatives made was the axe Labour’s Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).  Thse were replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships, set out in the recently published white paper: Local growth: realising every place’s potential.

New Homes Bonus incentive scheme

To answer the charge that localism would inevitably lead to nothing ever being built, George Osborn, the Chancellor, outlined the New Homes Bonus scheme in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The scheme seeks to encourage authorities to approve the development of housing in the wake of the revocation of Regional Spatial Strategies by matching the council tax raised on each new property developed for six years.

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