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15th October 2015

Planning Reforms Unveiled by Housing and Planning Bill

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The Government has introduced a Housing and Planning Bill to Parliament which it hopes will help deliver the Government ambition of one million homes by 2020.

The Government has introduced a Housing and Planning Bill to Parliament which it hopes will help deliver the Government ambition of one million homes by 2020. Whilst the Bill is likely to be amended as it passes through Parliament and much of the detail is yet to be spelt out in secondary legislation, it contains some key changes to the planning system. Starter Homes The Bill will introduce the concept of "Starter Homes" that will be required on all "reasonably sized" new development sites by way of Section 106 obligation. There will also be a general duty on local authorities to "carry out its relevant planning functions with a view to promoting the supply of starter homes in England". Starter Homes are new dwellings available for purchase by first time buyers under the age of 40, to be sold at a discount of at least 20% of the market value, for less than £250,000 outside Greater London and £450,000 in Greater London. Much of the detail is still to be set out in secondary legislation and it is intended that different requirements will be applied to different types of residential developments and to different areas, including conferring discretions on local planning authorities. Permission in Principle The Bill will also grant automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites with a view to delivering as many new homes as possible while protecting the green belt. Local authorities can be required to prepare, maintain and publish a register of land which is of a prescribed description or satisfies prescribed criteria. The Government intends to use the power to require local authorities to compile a register of previously developed land, known as "the Brownfield Register". A development order will then grant permission in principle for a certain type and scope of development (initially limited to housing) in relation to land allocated in the Brownfield Register, Development Plan Documents and Neighbourhood Plans. Alternatively, a development order can enable permission in principle to be granted for development of a prescribed description following an application to the local planning authority. The Government’s current intention is that this will initially be limited to minor housing development of fewer than 10 units. There is then provision for "technical details consent" to be obtained in accordance with the relevant permission in principle, giving rise to grant of full planning permission. It is the Government’s view that conditions are not appropriate at the "in principle" stage and should be reserved for the technical details consent stage. Local Planning The Bill will also enhance the powers that allow the Government to step in where local authorities fail to produce local plans for their area. Many local authorities still do not have an up to date plan and, as they should set out how many homes the authority plan to deliver over a set period, the Government considers local plans to be critical if housing supply is to meet local need. Accordingly, the Bill provides that if the Secretary of State thinks that a local planning authority is failing or omitting to do anything it is necessary for it to do in connection with the preparation, revision or adoption of a development plan document, the Secretary of State may prepare or revise the document or give directions to the authority in relation to the preparation or revision of the document, submit that document to independent examination, publish the recommendations of the person appointed to carry out the examination, and consider whether to adopt the document. Self-Build There will also be reforms to support small builders by placing a duty on local authorities to allocate land to people who want to build their own home. The Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 introduced new duties on local authorities to keep, and have regard to, registers of people seeking land for self-build and custom housebuilding. These new provisions will go one step further and require local authorities to grant sufficient suitable development permissions on serviced plots of land to meet the demand for self build and custom housebuilding in their area as evidenced by the register. Extended Permitted Development Rights The Government has also announced that the temporary permitted development rights allowing change of use of offices to residential, which are due to expire in May 2016, will be made permanent. In addition, those who already have prior approval or have secured permission will have 3 years in which to complete the change of use. The new permitted development rights will also allow the demolition of office buildings and their replacement with new buildings for residential use, subject to limitations yet to be spelt out. In addition, new permitted development rights will be introduced to permit the change of use of light industrial buildings and laundrettes to residential use. The necessary amendment order to the General Permitted Development Order has not yet been laid before Parliament, but we can expect it to be brought forward before the May 2016 deadline. For more information please visit our Planning service page or click here to email Gemma Dudley.