Nick Boles launched the final version of the Planning Practice Guidance which supports the National Planning Policy Framework after the beta version was published last year. This guidance replaces previous planning practice guidance documents which are now cancelled, the list of these cancelled policies can be found here.  Boles said that the new guidance includes the following:

 • Robust guidance on development in areas of flood risk
 • Re-affirmed Green Belt protection
 • Explaining how student, older people housing and re-use of empty homes could be included when assessing housing need
 • Stressing the importance of bringing brownfield land into use
 • Incorporating guidance on renewable energy published last summer
 • Allowing past over-supply of housing to be taken into account when assessing housing needs
 • Clarifying when councils could consider refusing permission on the grounds of prematurity in relation to draft plans
 • Encouraging joint working between local authorities, but clarifying that the duty to co-operate was not a duty to accept;

DCLG had considered and rejected proposals to allow councils to "undermine green Belt protection and dump development on their neighbours’ doorstep".

The guidance can be found in full here. This guidance should be considered when submitting planning applications.

New Permitted Development Rights come into force on 6 April 2014

Details of new permitted development rights have been released. These allow the change of use of shops to certain Class A2 uses and the creation of new dwelling houses in a variety of circumstances.

1. Change of use of a building (and land within its curtilage) from Use Class A1 to a ‘deposit taker’ (defined as bank, building society, friendly society or credit union) falling within Use Class A2

Exceptions
This permitted development right does not apply where the site forms part of :
• a site of special scientific interest
• a safety hazard area
• a military explosives storage area
• the site is or contains a scheduled ancient monument

Conditions
The change of use is subject to the following conditions:
1. The site can only be used as a deposit taker and for ancillary purposes thereto;
2. As soon as possible after the change of use, notification is to be given to the local planning authority of the change together with evidence that the site is being used by a deposit taker;
3. A site which has already utilised these permitted development rights may only change to another deposit taker use if, as soon as possible after the change of use, notification is given to the local planning authority of the change and evidence is provided that the site continues to be used by a deposit taker.

2. Change of use of a building from Use Classes A1; A2 or a mixed dwelling house and A1 or A2 use to Class C3 dwelling house together with such building operations are reasonably necessary to convert the building. This change is subject to a prior notification procedure.

Exceptions
This permitted development right does not apply where the site forms part of :
• a conservation area, listed building or scheduled ancient monument
• a site of special scientific interest a safety hazard area or a military explosives storage area
• the cumulative floorspace of the building changing use exceeds 150 sq m
• the conversion would extend the building
• the conversion would result in more demolition than partial demolition necessary for the conversion

Conditions
The change of use is subject to the following conditions:
1. The site can only be used as a dwelling house and for ancillary purposes thereto;
2. the local planning authority shall consider the prior approval on the basis of the:
• Transport and highways impacts
• Contamination risks
• Flood risk
• Whether the change of use would have an undesirable impact on the adequate provision of services (where there is a realistic prospect of the building being used for A1 or A2 purposes) or on the sustainability of a ‘key’ shopping area.
• Whether the proposed physical alterations are acceptable
• The change of use is implemented within 3 years.

Amendments to Office to Residential Prior Approval Procedures

The prior approval procedures are being amended from 6th April to provide added clarity. The changes make clear that local planning authorities….

• must only consider the National Planning Policy Framework to the extent that it is relevant to the matter on which prior approval is sought;
• may attach conditions to grants of prior approval, as long as those conditions are relevant to the matter on which prior approval is sought;
• may refuse the application if they are not satisfied that the proposed development qualifies as permitted development, or if they have insufficient information to establish whether the proposed development qualifies as permitted development; and
• may invite further information from applicants relevant to the matters on which prior approval is sought or to the question of whether the proposed development qualifies as permitted development.

These changes will also apply to the conversion of A1 and A2 uses to dwelling house as referred to above.

Kingston signals intent to restrict office to residential conversions

Kingston upon Thames is considering introducing an Article 4 Direction to remove office to residential conversion rights after losing over 4% of its office stock. The Council had determined 45 prior notification applications by the start of the year of which 28 (62%) were granted, 11 refused and six withdrawn. These decisions resulted in the creation of 214 residential units and the loss of 12,437 sq m of office floorspace. The borough is encouraging applications for new grade A office space.

Short term residential use in London

The Greater London Powers Act 1973 (as modified in 1983) introduces a legal distinction between residential use and short-term residential use (defined as temporary sleeping accommodation occupied by the same person for less than 90 consecutive days) for dwellings in London. As a result of experience during the 2012 Olympics where homeowners looking to rent out their properties to people coming to enjoy the Games found themselves foul of the law, the Government is consulting on Review of Property Conditions in the Private Rented Sector. The Minister introducing the consultation referred to the “outdated and unworkable” laws that prevent London homeowners renting their properties out on short-term lets to tourists in the way that property owners across the rest of the country can. This consultation includes a question on how the Government may tackle the issue preventing residential properties in London from turning into short let accommodation without the need for planning permission. This consultation closes on 28 March 2014.

Green Belt Policy Clarification

Nick Boles has written to the Planning Inspectorate expressing concern about the language used by a local plan inspector which invited misinterpretation of both government policy and the role of local planning authorities in drafting local plan policy.
The letter states that it is the local authority, and the community which elected them, which are in charge of planning for their own areas. The long standing protection of the green belt remains unaltered in the NPPF and their boundaries can only be altered in exceptional circumstances. The NPPF recognises the special role of Green Belt in the framing of the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which states that authorities should meet objectively assessed needs unless specific policies in the NPPF indicate development should be restricted. Green Belt is identified as one such policy.
Green Belt boundaries can be adjusted in the course of a local plan review, but it is for the relevant local authority to choose to do so and this must be clear in the drafting of Inspector’s reports.
The letter stops short of saying what government policy is if an authority fails to meet its needs – such as providing sufficient housing land – without bringing forward a green belt boundary review if that is what is necessary to release sufficient land.

Secretary Of State Housing Appeal Decisions 

The Secretary of State has demonstrated the Government’s approach to green belt development in three recent appeal decisions.

• Salford (near Bath) outline proposal for the erection of up to 99 homes on a 3.34 hectare green belt site on the edge of a village.  The local council could not demonstrate a five year land supply, and it was unlikely they could do so for at least another two years.  The Core Strategy acknowledged that land would need to be removed from the green belt to meet future housing needs however the Secretary of State concluded the encroachment into the green belt would result in an unacceptable reduction of green belt in the vicinity of the application site and that there would be significant visual harm from the proposed development.  Accordingly he did not consider that the harm arising from the inappropriate development in the green belt was outweighed by other considerations, including housing need.  The appeal was dismissed.

• Whitchurch (also nr Bath) outline proposal for up to 200 dwellings on a green belt site.  The local council accepted it could not demonstrate a five year housing land supply.  It was also accepted that it was inevitable that some green belt land would need to be released over the plan period.  There is however no evidence to conclude that the application site would necessarily be among the land to be released.  Consequently, whilst the Secretary of State attached significant weight in favour of the development due to the housing land supply land shortage, as well as moderate weight in terms of the inevitability of greenbelt land release, deliverability of the site and the economic benefits which would follow, he concluded that these together were insufficient to outweigh the substantial harm arising from inappropriate development in the green belt. 

• Pucklechurch (nr Bristol) redevelopment of mobile home and utility block on safeguarded gypsy and traveller site in the green belt with single larger private bungalow. Notwithstanding the personal health problems of the appellant, the presumption against inappropriate development in the green belt and the loss of a gypsy and traveller site outweighed the appellant’s needs. The appeal was dismissed.

This approach contrasts with the decisions on two proposals for housing development, considered in parallel, at Alcester. Separate proposals sought permission for up to 160 and 190 dwellings respectively on the edge of the settlement. Both sites were in the countryside but not in the green belt and allocated for development in the emerging Core Strategy. In the absence of that plan being approved, there was less than 5 year housing supply and consequently the presumption in favour of sustainable development applied. It was accepted that the sites were in a sustainable location, would not add to local flooding or drainage problems and could be developed in an acceptable manner. Planning permission was granted for both schemes.

Local Development Orders to approve London house building

Richard Blakeway, the deputy mayor for housing, has confirmed that discussions have been held with some London Boroughs on the introduction of Local development Orders which will grant planning permission for certain types of house building in the Mayor’s proposed new housing zones. Other options to help stimulate building could include using the mayor’s land assembly and CPO powers together with potential tax incentives for investors and consumers, although this would require new legislation. An announcement of the first five zones is expected in the summers document detailing how the zones would work, and announcing the first five to be agreed with the boroughs, Blakeway said.

Westminster Council planning policy review update

The next topic papers have been released for consultation on:

• Booklet 1 - Housing Need, Delivery and Quality
• Booklet 5 - Food, Drink, Entertainment, Tourism, Arts and Culture
• Booklet 6 - Westminster’s Economy
• Booklet 7 - Social and Community Uses

This follows three topic papers which were released last year and have since closed which were for; Flood Risk, Mayfair & St James’s and Basement. The consultation can be found here.

Neighbourhood Planning Update

South Norfolk Council has adopted the Cringleford Neighbour Development Plan, making it the sixth such plan to be adopted in England. Elsewhere disagreements between neighbourhood forums and the local District Council are illustrating the difficulties in producing such plans.

Broughton Astley Neighbourhood Plan (NP) in Leicestershire came into force after passing its referendum with an 89% yes vote. This plan allocates sites for over 400 homes, protects green spaces and improves leisure and employment facilities. Cringleford NP in South Norfolk came into force passing tis referendum with a 93% yes vote and this allocates sites for over 1,200 homes with further polices over local heritage and the economy. These two were both passed this year.

On the south coast, a disagreement between Arun District Council and Littlehampton Town Council has prevented a Neighbourhood Plan from going to referendum.  The draft plan contained a policy requiring a local swimming and sports centre, owned and operated by Arun Council, to be retained for leisure purposes.  Arun objected to this policy as it was considering relocating the centre and required flexibility over alternative uses to fund that relocation.  The independent inspector accepted these representations and removed the restriction.  The Town Council subsequently claimed it was not aware of the representation until after the examiner had issued his report.  It also felt that it could not support the amended plan going forward to referendum as neither it nor the local community could endorse the revised policy.

The same occurred in Buckinghamshire where the Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum claimed that in defining a neighbourhood area that was smaller than applied for, Wickham District Council had excluded the two main development sites which were likely to impact on the local community.  The Court of Appeal ruled that the District Council was entitled to designate a neighbourhood area that was smaller than sought and also that it was not Parliament’s intention that neighbourhood areas would be designated to create an unbroken patchwork across England.

Online Non-Material Amendment form introduced

As of the 13 March a planning application for a non-material amendment can now be submitted online via the Planning Portal for the first time and replaces the need to submit a paper application.

LOCAL PLAN NEWS

The National Planning team has contacts and experience working in most local councils. Should you have clients with land interests, we would be happy to provide representations on their behalf to policy documents open for consultation.
Adur & Worthing Councils - Community Infrastructure Levy, Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.
Castle Point Borough Council – Community Infrastructure Levy, Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.
Chelmsford City Council
– Community Infrastructure Levy has been approved and this charging schedule will come into effect on 1 June. The Schedule, Regulation 123 list and Instalments Policy can be found here.
Eastbourne Borough Council - Community Infrastructure Levy, Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.
Lichfield District Council
– Community Infrastructure Levy, Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.
London Borough of Ealing
- Community Infrastructure Levy, Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.
London Borough of Hounslow
– Local Plan Proposed Submission Draft and Community Infrastructure Levy, Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule are both open for consultation and this can be found here.
London Borough of Islington
– is consulting on a discussion paper to inform a new Supplementary Planning Document which will provide additional guidance on Development Management Policy DM4.3. This policy resists proposals for certain land uses where they would have negative impacts on an area or would lead to an unacceptable concentration such as betting shops and hot food takeaways. This can be found here.
Maidstone Borough Council – is seeking additional development sites for new residential development as part of an Additional Call for Potential Development Site, more information can be found here.
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – Royal Brompton Hospital Supplementary Planning Document is open for consultation and this can be found here: this provides guidance on how the council plans to develop the hospitals landholdings.
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council – Core Strategy Main Modifications is open for consultation and this can be found here.
Rushcliffe Borough Council
– Draft Core Strategy, Modifications is open for consultation and this can be found here.
South Lakeland District Council
- Community Infrastructure Levy, Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.
Spelthorne Borough Council - Community Infrastructure Levy, Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.
West Berkshire Council
– Community Infrastructure Levy has been approved and this charging schedule will come into effect on 1 April and this can be found here .
West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council – Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) are both open for consultation and can be found here: www.dorsetforyou.com/statement-of-community-involvement/west/weymouth and www.dorsetforyou.com/SHLAA/west/weymouth. The SHLAA is looking for new development sites to be submitted to the council.
Wokingham Borough Council - Community Infrastructure Levy, Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation and this can be found here.