Proposed changes to the Planning system (June 2022)

When we saw the proposed changes to the planning process published in 2020 we were horrified.  We submitted a very critical appraisal in response to the Government’s consultation and provided some ammunition for our MP Theresa Villiers to use in the House of Commons, where she was very vocal in her criticism of the proposals.  So it was pleasing that following Michael Gove’s appointment as Communities Secretary he decided that the most controversial proposals should be dropped.  Hopefully we have now seen the back of the setting of new build targets for every Local Authority, classifying all land as “Growth, Renewal or Protection”, and the limiting of the ability of residents  to object to planning applications. 

The successor proposals are now in the public domain as part of The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill now being scrutinised by Parliament.   There are some good ideas concerning the forced letting of empty High St shops; a new planning tool called a “neighbourhood priorities statement”, intended to provide communities with a simpler way to set out their key priorities and preferences for their local areas; and a Design Code to be developed for the whole of each Local Authority area setting out expectations on the scale and appearance of any proposed developments.

A proposal to make permanent existing temporary powers requiring developers to consult the local community before making a planning application superficially looks very attractive, but only applies to certain categories, and so far has only been used for wind farms.  This ought to go much further.

A questionable proposal is the concept of street votes for community led “gentle densification” of urban areas should residents desire this.  Given our experience of how residents respond to any proposed densification in their areas we suspect this idea will turn out to be a damp squib.

The proposal we find least desirable is the intention to introduce a suite of National Development Management Policies which will be the basis on which planning applications will be determined “unless there are considerations that strongly indicate otherwise”.  This is likely to mean that Local Authorities will have little scope to set planning rules according to local circumstances and Planning Committees are likely to have more limited discretion in determining applications.  The voices of residents may be rendered largely invalid under prescriptive rules dictated from above.

BRA   June 2022