The Countdown to Christmas.... BNG, PD, and a lot of anticipation....
It is now December. The Christmas tree is up. The children are stuck in a state of perpetual over-excitement, and I am snitching to Santa at every given opportunity.
This is also the traditional time for deck clearing at DLUHC. I mean, no one claims that Die Hard is an Autumn movie, and there are only a few weeks left until we reach ‘the end of the year’…..
The big thing on everyone's Christmas list, of course, is the revised NPPF.
Earlier this week, DLUHC published its response to the Select Committee's report on planning reform. In that response it stated:
“The government’s proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) were subject to a full public consultation that ran from December 2022 to March 2023. We are continuing to consider the responses to that consultation and intend to respond later in 2023.”
Given that we are rapidly running out of 2023, it is fair to say that this could land literally any day now.
Whilst we wait, however, it might be worth taking a few moments to look at the events of the last week, as well as everything else that could land between now and start of 2024.
Let's start with what we have seen:
Biodiversity Net Gain
We now have the first tranche of draft guidance and regulations intended to underpin the operation of Biodiversity Net Gain, when it takes effect in January.
It has been a busy week*, so I ashamed to say that I am still working through the detail, but the links are below:
- Draft biodiversity net gain planning practice guidance
- The Biodiversity Gain (Town and Country Planning) (Modifications and Amendments) (England) Regulations 2024
- The Biodiversity Gain Site Register Regulations 2024
- The Biodiversity Gain Requirements (Exemptions) Regulations 2024
- The Biodiversity Gain Requirements (Irreplaceable Habitat) Regulations 2024
Claire and I will write more when we have managed to finish reading it all!
Permitted Development Changes
This week also saw the publication of yet another set of changes to the General Permitted Development Order.
This latest set of tweaks to the PD Regime:
- Introduces a new permitted development right relating to open prisons
- Widens the scope of the pd rights for solar panels to allow them to be installed on flat roofs in some circumstances,
- Eases up some of the restrictions on domestic solar panel installations,
- Removes the 1MW restriction for industrial rooftop solar; and
- Introduces a new pd right for the installation of solar canopies on non-domestic, off-street parking.
Another Local Plan intervention
We have also seen another Council join Spelthorne on DLUHC's naughty list.
On Friday, the new Housing Minister, Lee Rowley, wrote to Erewash Borough Council to prevent the council from withdrawing its local plan from examination.
The letter followed a very similar format and logic to the letter sent to Spelthorne earlier in the year. With the reasons for the intervention being stated as follows:
"I have also considered the Local Plan intervention criteria in the 2017 White Paper "Fixing our broken housing market", to assist me in determining priority and whether intervention should take place.
The applicable criteria are:
- The least progress in plan-making has been made: More than 69% of English Councils have adopted a local plan since Erewash (March 2014). If the Council withdraws the plan, it would be within the 30% of the oldest adopted local plans in the country
- Policies in plans have not been kept up to date: The adopted local plan is now over nine years old, and it is reasonable to assume, given the age of the plan, that a number of the policies it contains will not be up to date.
- There was a higher housing pressure: The Council is not performing well against the Housing Delivery Test which requires enough houses to come forward within the Borough to adequately meet local housing need. In withdrawing the draft plan, the Council would be further failing to plan for and deliver the homes that people need.
- Intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating Local Plan production: Considering the average time taken to prepare a local plan is seven years, and we are approaching the phased introduction of a new planning system, withdrawing the plan at this stage will lead to significant further delay whilst a new plan is prepared. The council should proceed with its current plan.
- Wider Planning context: Delays caused by withdrawing the Local Plan could significantly slow down Neighbourhood Plan progress in the area and could also disincentivise other communities from coming forward to start the process.
Having considered Erewash’s performance against the intervention policy criteria and the statutory test set out in section 27(1) of the 2004 Act, I am satisfied that intervention is justified."
What else is outstanding…..
Well, to be honest, quite a lot.
Even if we ignore (for the moment) the additional PD Rights announcements in the Autumn Statement, and all of the work needed to fully enact LURA, we are still waiting on responses to the following consultations:
- Permitted development rights: supporting temporary recreational campsites, renewable energy and film-making consultation
- Environmental Outcomes Reports: a new approach to environmental assessment
- Technical consultation on the Infrastructure Levy
- Introduction of a use class for short term lets and associated permitted development rights
- Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund: call for evidence and expression of interest
- High street rental auctions
- Freight and logistics and the planning system: call for evidence
- Permitted development rights
- Plan-making reforms: consultation on implementation
- Operational reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) consenting process
- The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: reforms to national planning policy consultation
If even half of these get a response before the end of the year, it will be a very busy December indeed!
*that might be an understatement