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15th April 2013

Relaxation of planning rules for free schools

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The Government recently announced new measures to make it easier for free schools to convert empty and underused buildings and move more quickly into their preferred site.

The Government recently announced new measures to make it easier for free schools to convert empty and underused buildings and move more quickly into their preferred site. Some measures to help developers of free schools find a suitable site more quickly are already in place: for example, councils must prioritise the need for new school developments when considering planning applications. However, free schools still face a lengthy application process of up to a year for permission to move into buildings which have been earmarked by those establishing the free school but are not currently used as a school. To help avoid the delays and uncertainty created for the schools, parents and pupils, the Government have announced the following changes: Free schools will be allowed to open in almost any building for a year without planning permission. They will also have extra time to secure planning permission to remain in their buildings after that first year. There will be a more streamlined approval process, with limited assessment by the local planning authority, which will allow new free schools to open permanently in a wider range of buildings, such as offices and hotels. The Government hopes that the changes “will allow free schools to concentrate on education not bureaucracy and will give parents peace of mind”. These changes are part of wider reforms planned under the Growth and Infrastructure Bill and are expected to come into effect in June 2013. Although those establishing free schools will benefit from the changes, they should be aware of the resulting risk that they will set up their school easily but then be in limbo for their first year until full planning consent is granted. For further information, please contact Deborah Sharples on 01223 461155 or click here to email Deborah.