Posted by

Tom Nolan, Policy Adviser

04 Jul 2012

Planning is an area that has seen many changes since the Coalition came to power almost two years ago. And this week in a written statement to Parliament the minister with responsibility for the issue, Greg Clark MP, outlined further reforms. The announcement that gained most attention was the decision to introduce a one-off increase in planning fees of around 15% in the autumn. However, central government will continue to set the level of planning fees – an arrangement that business will be glad to see remains in place.  Allowing local authorities to set their own planning fees was something that the government had previously indicated that they would support. The 15% rise will not be welcomed by many, so the government must live up to their pledge to ensure that the increase is matched by an improved performance by local authorities planning departments.

The Minister also announced that three new consultations will be opened to the public from this week. The first relates measures to improve the performance of statutory consultees. Statutory consultees -  which include government bodies such as the Highways Agency, Natural England and the Health and Safety Executive – are legally required to be consulted by local authorities planning applications are being considered. The measures proposed include making the counsultees more liable for costs at appeal if they have acted unreasonably. The second consultation relates to making the information required for planning applications clearer, simpler and more proportionate, something that certainly has not always been the case in the past. The third will introduce changes to the use classes order and associated permitted development rights. This should make it easier to change the use of existing buildings without the need to apply formally for planning permission. All three consultations close on 11 September.

Elsewhere, the Minister said that later this year his department will publish a consultation on proposals to underpin the planning guarantee. This guarantee was included in last year’s Growth Review and it means that it should take no longer than 12 months to determine any planning application, including any appeal. The Minister also made a pledge to reduce the amount of planning guidance – it currently runs to over 6,000 pages – in a similar manner that the National Planning Policy Framework reduced the amount of planning policy. A further announcement is expected shortly. And we can also expect another consultation later this year on ways of speeding up the process for determining planning appeals.

Finally, the NPPF impact assessment and the government response to the NPPF consultation have been made available. It has been almost four months since the NPPF was published with the aim of making the planning system less complex, more accessible and an enabler of economic growth. The key to the success of the NPPF will be its implementation and this is something that we will be monitoring this over the coming months.