Planning news round-up

1. Changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy

The Government proposed a number of reforms to the Community Infrastructure Levy (‘CIL’) in last year’s Autumn Budget, including:

• Lifting the restrictions on pooling s.106 contributions in “certain circumstances” – most notably for strategic sites in areas where the local authority has already adopted CIL;
• Making the procedure for setting and adopting CIL faster and more streamlined "to make it easier to respond to changes to the market";
• Allowing charging authorities to set rates based on the uplift in land values between an existing use and a proposed use;
• Changing indexation of CIL rates to enable them to be in line with house price inflation, rather than build costs; and
• Giving Combined Authorities and planning joint committees with statutory plan-making functions the option to levy a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff. This will allow for a greater amount of the land value uplift to be captured when planning permission is granted.

The proposals will be consulted on in due course, but there is currently no set date.

2. Permission in principle

In April 2017, regulations came into effect that required all local authorities to publish their brownfield land registers by 31 December 2017. However, research carried out by a group of campaigners found that one in five Councils had missed the deadline, although the newly-named Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has suggested that many authorities published registers immediately after the 31 December deadline.

The registers will assist in facilitating the granting of permission in principle, which is a new form of automatic planning consent for housing and related development for sites on brownfield registers with the aim to provide a fast-track route through the planning process and speed up housing delivery. The Town and Country Planning (Permission in Principle) (Amendment) Order 2017, which is due to come into force on 1 June 2018, will allow developers to apply for permission in principle for minor housing developments of fewer than 10 homes. It has been suggested, however, that although this new route may reduce risk, it will not be a cheaper route and take up may be slow.

3. Planning fee increases

On Wednesday 17 January 2018, the Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England)(Amendment) Regulations 2017 came into force. These allow local authorities in England to increase planning application fees by 20%, with the aim of assisting under-resourced local planning authorities to invest more in their planning departments.

The regulations, which were proposed in the Government's Housing White Paper, also prescribe fees for planning permissions in principle, allow fees to be charged where applications are necessary because permitted development rights have been withdrawn through Article 4 directions or by condition, and also introduce a fee of £96 for prior approval applications to certain permitted development rights.

4. New planning minister and renamed department

The Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle on 9 January 2018, saw the appointment of new Housing Minister, Dominic Raab, just seven months after the previous Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, took up the post. Dominic will have responsibility for both housing and planning.

The reshuffle also saw a change of name for the Department for Communities and Local Government which became the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and housing was also added to Sajid Javid’s title to become Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

It is not yet clear what impact the changes have in terms of the roles and responsibilities of the department and ministers or whether these changes will have an impact upon any of the reforms proposed to take place this year, such as the National Planning Policy Framework.

5. NPPF changes

A number of changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, which were proposed by the Government in December 2015, are due to be published before the end of the summer this year. Melanie Dawes, Permanent Secretary of  the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, has said that she wants a consultation version of the revised document to be published before Easter but it is unclear whether the new cabinet reshuffle and newly appointed Dominic Raab will delay when the new guidance is likely to be published. Watch this space!

6. Richborough Estates Ltd and others v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government [2018] EWHC 33 (Admin)

The much anticipated decision in the Richborough Estates Limited & Ors v SoS case was determined on 12 January 2018, with Mr Justice Dove ruling that there were no legal flaws made in the written ministerial statement on neighbourhood plans (NPs).

A number of housebuilders originally challenged the validity and weight attached to the written ministerial statement published in December 2016, which stated that NPs should not be deemed out of date where NPs allocated housing and the local planning authority could demonstrate a three-year housing land supply.

The judgment means that the written ministerial statement is still relevant in planning decisions.

It is yet to be seen whether the housebuilders intend to take this to the Court of Appeal, but the indications so far are that they may appeal in respect of part of the judgment, specifically in respect of legitimate expectation for consultation.

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