New Government Criteria for Improving Planning Performance

The Government has introduced new rules to speed up planning decision making. These rules come into force in October and seek to improve both the speed and quality of performance. Where Councils fail to meet the performance levels, applications will be able to be made direct to the Government instead.

Planning authority performance will be assessed in two ways. Firstly on the speed with which applications for major development are dealt with and secondly on the quality of decision making judged by the extent to which decisions on major development are overturned at appeal.

The speed of decision making will be looked at based on the average percentage of decisions made within the statutory period or such extended period as has been agreed with planning authority. Extended periods maybe agreed either through a Planning Performance Agreement or post submission in writing provided a revised date for decision is also given. The target is for at least 70% of decisions to be made within the determination period.

The quality of decision making will be based upon what percentage of a Council’s decisions is overturned at appeal in any two year period. The target is for no more than 20% to be overturned.

Councils are required to make quarterly performance returns. If they fail to lodge returns the Government will impute values based on average returns for that region. Where Councils fail to lodge returns more than twice in any two year period they will be subject to penalties which will make it more likely the Government will take over the planning function.

Streamlining Applications

Rules coming into force on the 25 June will reduce the number of applications for which Design and Access Statements have to be submitted. The revised rules will also remove the requirement for Councils to provide a summary of the reasons for approval on decision notices.

Design and Access Statements will only be required for major applications or to applications for new houses or 100 sq m or more commercial development in conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.

New Appeal Route

Where there is a dispute as to whether an application is valid or not, the applicant can send a notice to the planning authority indicating why they believe the authority’s requirement fails to accord with the legislation and ask for the Council to waive their requirement for the evidence to be submitted. The planning authority has 7 working days to respond. If the Council accept the notice, they will go on to determine the application; if they reject the notice an appeal can be made on the grounds of non-determination.

New Practice Guidance for Onshore Wind Farms

In a Ministerial Statement, Eric Pickles has responded to concerns that decisions on wind farms are not always locally-led.  He has undertaken to amend legislation to make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory. New planning guidance is to be issued to balance the need for renewable energy with local environmental protection and the concerns of local communities. In the interim, the statement is to be regarded as a material consideration in making planning decisions.

Growth constrained by lack of affordable housing

A recent poll commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF) has found that 55% of managers said the availability of affordable housing would be an important factor if they were expanding their business and 78% said house prices are a problem in their area.  Furthermore, 70% of respondents agreed that building more homes would stimulate the local economy.

The NHF director commented that: “Our economy is being held back because there aren’t enough homes. Thus if people cannot find accommodation this will reduce the labor mobility of the population which will hamper the economy.“

East of Oxford – 38 hectare Neighbourhood extension

Oxford City Council has submitted an outline application for a new neighbourhood to the west of Barton for up to 885 homes.  The application states that 40% will be affordable and will include local facilities; construction is due to start late 2015.

Increase in payday lenders on the high street

A recent study showed a 17% increase over the past 2 years of payday lenders, betting shops and pawnbrokers opening up on British high streets. The same period has also seen a 12% increase in discount stores.  Labour proposed in April of this year that they would give local authorities the powers to refuse and limit payday lenders, betting shops and pawnbrokers, if they are elected at the next general election. While other retailers are struggling on the high street this shows that some retailers are expanding and helping to enhance town centers, be this for the better or worse.

Government investment into ‘stalled’ development sites

DCLG has launched a £474m fund to help unlock stalled development in enterprise zones earlier this year. This week 14 schemes were successful in gaining part of this fund (£120m) to kick start development of 38,000 new homes. Housing Minister Mark Prisk said ‘this Government is determined to get Britain working again’.

Local Plan News

Milton Keynes Council’s Core Strategy was found sound by the planning inspector. This includes a minimum target of 28,000 new homes over the plan period to 2026.