Category: Opinions | June 25, 2020
Reforms have been proposed in The Business and Planning Bill which was introduced to the House of Commons on 25 June 2020. The planning reforms proposed in this Bill are in Part III.
The Bill provides that the permission extension changes would come into force 28 days after the Act is passed, the construction site working hours proposal would come into force 6 days after the Act is passed, while the appeal procedure flexibility and GLAA amendments would come into force on the day on which the Act is passed.
MPs will consider all stages of the Bill in one day on Monday 29 June 2020. The Government is aiming for the Bill to pass into law by 4 July 2020.
Below is a summary of the further reforms proposed to the planning system via the Bill.
Extension to planning permissions
The Bill contains an automatic extension for some planning permissions and an extension, subject to an ‘additional environmental approval’ for others. The proposed extensions currently only apply to planning permissions in England. The proposed changes will comes into force via new sections to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended).
The following permissions will automatically be extended to 1 April 2021: (a) relevant planning permissions and outline planning permissions due to expire between 28 days after the Bill passes and 31 December 2020; (b) listed building consents requiring the commencement of works between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020; and (c) reserved matters approvals application deadlines between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.
Relevant planning permissions and outline planning permissions that expired between the start of lockdown (23 March 2020) and 28 days after the Business and Planning Act comes into force, require developers to apply to the local planning authority for “additional environmental approval” to revive them to 1 April 2021. “Additional environmental approval” can only be granted by the planning authority if the “EIA requirement” and the “habitats requirement” are both met. These conditions will be satisfied if, at the time the planning authority makes the decision, the authorised development: is not an EIA development; the development is an EIA development but the Environmental Impact Assessment remains up to date; does not require a habitats assessment, or the development was previously the subject of a habitats assessment which ascertained it would not adversely affect the integrity of a European site or European offshore marine site, and which remains up-to-date. Applications for “additional environmental approval” must be approved by the planning authority within 28 days, otherwise they are deemed to be approved. The approval cannot be granted subject to any further conditions. The ability to revive these planning permissions will expire on 31 December 2020. However, under the Bill the Secretary of State has powers to amend the above dates (and processes) by further regulations.
Modification of conditions relating to construction working hours
The Bill introduces a fast track route for developers to apply to the planning authority to temporarily vary conditions or approved documents setting out restrictions on construction working hours. The temporary amendments expire on a date set by the planning authority no later than 1 April 2021.
Applications must be made in writing, electronically, to the planning authority who must decide within 14 days whether to approve the modification. If a decision is not made within 14 days the modification is deemed to be approved. There is a right of appeal against refusal of an application under the new procedure.
The Planning Inspectorate
The Bill will permanently allow the Secretary of State (i.e. the Planning Inspectorate) to determine whether to use more than one procedure (written representations, hearings and inquiries) at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal in England, so as to make the appeals process more efficient and faster decisions.
Electronic inspection of spatial development strategy
The Bill, through modifications to the Greater London Authority Act 1999, also temporarily permits electronic inspection of the Mayor of London’s spatial development strategy until 31 December 2020.
While these measures go some way in starting to address the concerns of businesses and developers, the temporary and short term nature of most of these measures do not provide enough scope for meaningful impact and recovery for businesses grappling with the economic pressures prompted by the pandemic. These measures may also put pressure on local authorities to determine applications within tight timescale. It will be interesting to see whether the permanent power to be given to the Planning Inspectorate to use a mixture of procedures will clear the current planning appeals backlog.