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Questions Remain Over Potential Impact Of Planning Proposals

More Information Vital To Measure Impact Of Changes


The government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system has been announced but doubts remain in the long-term over the impact that the plans will have, according to Irwin Mitchell's Head of Planning.

New plans to relax the current rules in England have been unveiled, with measures announced including allowing owners of residential and commercial properties to expand such buildings, as well as the removal of requirements for housebuilders to include affordable housing on new developments if they meet specific criteria.

It is hoped that the major housing and planning package will deliver up to 70,000 new homes, create 140,000 jobs and lead to a £40 billion guarantee for major infrastructure projects and £10 billion for new homes.

Oliver Martin, a Partner and specialist in planning at Irwin Mitchell, described the proposals as interesting but warned that time will tell as to whether the proposals will have the impact that ministers desire.

He outlined: “In principle, many of the proposals which have been put forward by the Government could have a positive impact, but the overall effect is something that may only become clear once the measures are in place.

“For example, the proposals to expand permitted development rights will be welcomed by a number of householders. However, there are many who have the planning permission they need for extensions but have been thwarted from completing building work simply by costs. So, the impact that this change will have on economic growth remains to be seen.

“It will also be interesting to see how plans are taken forward to make commercial property available for residential use. This relaxation will be subject to local authorities seeking an exemption if they believe there will be an adverse economic impact.

“Many local authorities could be concerned that the move will lead to uncontrolled housing increases in certain areas – for example there could be instances where new dwellings are created and there is no contribution from the developer towards social and community infrastructure such as local schools.”

Oliver added that further changes could also lead to a greater burden of work on the Planning Inspectorate and warned that resourcing for the organisation would need to be carefully considered.

He explained: “The removal of requirements for developers to include affordable housing on new developments is another eye-catching proposal. The intention will be to allow developers to appeal immediately if sites are considered unviable due to affordable housing requirements.

“Such a move will create additional work for the Planning Inspectorate, as negotiations on and consideration of the viability of development schemes are usually complex and can require specialist evidence.

“There is the possibility that the Planning Inspectorate could be overburdened fairly quickly with such cases, but hopefully the prospect of such appeals will be an incentive for local authorities to sit down with developers and renegotiate plans to avoid them.

“We also understand that new legislation may see developers bypass poorly performing council planning departments and head straight to the Planning Inspectorate. While this could speed up decision-making in many ways, more information is needed on how this would work.

“For example, what criteria will be used to assess poor performance? What resources is the Government making available to the Planning Inspectorate to deal with the potential influx of applications which will require determination? In an era of ‘localism’, taking powers away from councils on the basis of assessments made by central government may not prove popular.”

“Ultimately, more information is clearly going to prove vital in determining whether these changes can genuinely make the difference that is hoped. The detail and the level of resourcing are hugely important. Especially at a time when the Planning Inspectorate is already seeing more planning matters being appealed as a result of the NPPF published in March.”