The proposed amendments to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Regulations, which we reported in the December update, are predicted to come into effect by the end of February; although DCLG has advised that this date could slip. The amendments include the following changes, and an extension to the period in which local authorities can introduce CIL of a year to April 2015:

• a new mandatory exemption for self-build housing, including communal development, and new mandatory exemptions for residential annexes and extension;

• where a council has published a draft Regulation 123 list (identifying the types of infrastructure that CIL is intended to fund) this must be used to inform the charging schedule

• allow local authorities to set different rates to the proposed size of development as well as the proposed number of units

• a new option will be introduced to allow local authorities to accept payments through the provision of on-site or off-site infrastructure for the whole or part of the levy payable.

• a requirement on the local authority to strike an appropriate balance between the desirability of funding infrastructure from the levy, and the potential effects of the levy on the economic viability of development across the area;

• a change which ensures that if any planning permission is phased, then each phase will be a different chargeable amount and an amendment to allow CIL to be paid through the provision of infrastructure.

• the vacancy test will be extended so that when a building has been in continuous lawful use for at least 6 months out of the last 3 years it can qualify from an exemption to CIL.

Lib Dems identify more planning reforms

The Liberal Democrats are holding their annual spring conference next month where they will be floating their views on planning reform. The proposals have been drawn up by Annette Brooke MP and have the following proposals aimed at delivering 300,000 new homes a year:

• A redefined relationship between government bodies (e.g. local government, communities, Planning Inspectorate) aimed at reducing unnecessary intervention in local decisions against the wishes of local councils/ communities where local plans are up to date and approved;

• A proposed consultation on the extent to which ministerial call in powers could be limited;

• Creation of ‘natural’ sub-regional groupings of council’s to work together on strategic planning issues;

• Greater resources for updating neighbourhood plans;

• A ‘community right of appeal’ if a planning authority passes an application that does not conform to an up-to-date and approved neighbourhood plan;

• The introduction of new community development "windfalls";

• Reform of the 1981 New Towns Act to make it easier for local partners to meet housing targets through the creation of larger settlements;

• A package of measures to introduce greater competition to the house building industry.
Brooke stated that these reforms won’t necessarily form part of the party’s manifesto for the general election due next year; but they could help ‘influence’ it.

Understanding Deliverability – a legal interpretation

The meaning of "deliverability" in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is at the centre of a high court dispute over outline planning permission for a 300–home development at Barrow upon Soar. The judge is being asked to decide whether the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the NPPF is dependent on there being a realistic prospect of the development delivered within five years.

The parish council is seeking to have a planning permission granted to Jelson Homes quashed, claiming that a Planning Inspector wrongly placed the burden on it to demonstrate that the proposal was not deliverable within five years, rather than on the developer to show this.

The NPPF provides for a presumption in favour of sustainable development, but the parish council says that, in order for the site to be considered to make a significant contribution to a shortfall in five–year housing supply for the area, there had to be a realistic prospect that it would be deliverable within that period.

The advocate for the parish argued that the Inspector misdirected himself or acted unreasonably in his assessment of the deliverability of the scheme, as the main sewer in the area is already almost at capacity and could not support the development. The resolution of foul water drainage issues lies outside of the developer’s control and so the Secretary of State could not properly assume deliverability of the development.

However, the advocate for the Secretary of State argued that the claim does not raise a novel point in respect of the meaning of deliverability in the NPPF and that the parish council's main ground of challenge, to the effect that the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the NPPF does not apply if it is not completely deliverable within five years, was based on a false premise, with no authority to support it. He said that the Inspector reached a planning judgment that there was a realistic prospect of substantial delivery within five years, and afforded little weight to the parish council's submissions to the contrary.
The matter now rests with the judge to issue a decision which will be reported in a future update.

Planning approval at highest point since 1999

A recent study has found that 89% of all planning applications submitted to local authorities have been approved, which is at the highest point since 1999. The NPPF could further push this figure higher as it has been designed to simplify the planning process by cutting red tape, thus making it ‘easier’ for developers to obtain a decision on their plans. The UK economy is finally growing, market confidence is being restored and local authorities will not want to impede new growth opportunities, especially when developments create jobs, promote economic growth and help meet housing targets.

New settlement proposed at Ebbsfleet to meet London’s housing need

The Centre for London has released a report that says a new town should be built at Ebbsfleet to help meet London’s housing need and this which will help drive regeneration in the north Kent area. London’s population is due to rise by over 2million people over the next 20years and the East Thames area could accommodate a quarter of this increase. The report finds Ebbsfleet, as a prime candidate for a new town due to its direct rail links to London and it could created along the same principles as Milton Keynes. The full report can be found here: http://centreforlondon.org/publication/go-east-unlocking-potential-thames-estuary/

Local Plans – Update

Many planning authorities continue to struggle to produce ‘sound’ new plans. Where they fail and cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply, developers can promote new housing schemes under the NPPF ‘presumption in favour of development’
Leeds City Council’s Core Strategy proposes 70,000 new homes to be built by 2028; the Inspector has listed modifications to ensure the plan is found sound such a full Green Belt review to help accommodate the scale of the housing and employment growth predicted by the council. The council states that many key elements of the plan do not need to change but, they will consider the impact of the Inspectors report at an executive meeting to be held next month.

Ribble Valley Borough Council has been told by the Inspector examining their Core Strategy that a rise in its annual housing building target from 250 to 280 is necessary for the plan. The council is currently discussing its options and will be preparing a statement outlining its position.

Ashfield District Council has received a letter from the Inspector raising concerns over the soundness of the Local Plan arising from issues relating to the duty to co-operate, plan period and Green Belt review – all of which are fundamental to finding the plan sound. The council now plans to decide on whether to withdraw from the examination, provide more evidence, or continue as planned. A decision will be made at an exploratory meeting with the Inspector.

Aylesbury Vale District Council has withdrawn its Local Plan following a report from the Inspector finding it unsound. The Inspector found that the council had failed to co-operate with neighbouring authorities and so the council must now produce a revised plan following negotiations with neighbouring authorities.

Recent decisions made in the absence of a 5 year housing land supply

Eric Pickles has granted outline planning permission for 300 homes in East Staffordshire Borough Council after accepting the Inspector’s recommendation that the benefits of the application outweigh the constraints due to the absence of a five year housing land supply. The council originally refused the application due to its location outside of the settlement boundary and the adverse effect it would have on the landscape.

An outline planning application in for 600 homes in Harrogate Borough Council has been refused by councillors despite being recommended for approve by officers due to the lack of a five year housing supply. Councillors rejected it on the grounds of an increase in traffic levels despite the North Yorkshire County Council highways team judging the access and infrastructure proposed as being acceptable.

Cheshire East Council has approved 1,100 homes on farmland after the council could not demonstrate a five year housing land supply as required by the NPPF. The officer’s report acknowledged that under the council’s current local plan, development would not be permitted on open farmland; however, the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the NPPF required the council to grant permission. This follows a similar application last year where 270 homes were approved by the council due to the absence of a five year housing supply.

LOCAL PLAN NEWS

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council - The Local Plan Part 2, Site Allocations and Development Management Policies Publish Edition is open for consultation and this can be found here: http://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Pages/New-development-in-your-area-Have-your-say.aspx

Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council – the Land Allocations of the Trafford Local Plan is open for consultation and this can be found here:  https://www.trafford.gov.uk/planning/strategic-planning/local-development-framework/trafford-local-plan-land-allocations.aspx