Abolition of Regional Strategies
The removal of the primary legislation which sets the basis for Regional Strategies. Ministers believe imposed Regional Strategies and the top down targets did not work effectively and that the target-driven approach to development was undemocratic and added unnecessary bureaucracy to the planning system. This approach alienated people, setting them against development – as witnessed by the number of objections to them from members of the public and the fact we now have the lowest levels of peacetime house-building since 1924.
Community Infrastructure Levy
The Community Infrastructure Levy allows local authorities to set charges which developers must pay when bringing forward new development in order to contribute to new infrastructure. The Bill introduces three changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy. Firstly, the Bill includes provisions to make regulations requiring some of these funds to be passed to neighbourhoods where the development has taken place. Secondly, it makes clear that funds can be spent on the ongoing costs of infrastructure, as well as the initial costs of new infrastructure. Lastly, it gives local authorities greater control over setting their charging levels – while independent examiners will still consider whether the charging schedule is unreasonable, it will be for the authority to decide how to make it reasonable.
Local Plan Reform
Ministers wish to give local authorities and communities greater choice and control by removing the ability of the Planning Inspectorate to re-write local plans – and by removing procedures on timetabling and monitoring, which many authorities have found bureaucratic. Planning inspectors will continue to assess local plans at a public examination, and authorities will only be able to adopt plans judged ‘sound’ by the inspector, but inspectors will only be able to suggest changes at the request of the local authority. Local authorities will be able to suggest changes during the examination and withdraw development plan documents before their adoption, without seeking clearance from central Government. Local authorities will also have to publish up to date information direct to the public on what planning documents they are preparing, while central government powers to direct changes will be more limited.
The Bill will introduce a new right for communities to shape their local areas. Neighbourhood plans will enable communities to permit development – in full or in outline – without the need for planning applications. The current planning system is too centralised and bureaucratic. This complexity makes it inaccessible to communities. Top-down enforcement of housing targets has alienated communities and stoked up local opposition to development. This will lift the burden of centralised controls and give neighbourhoods and local areas the flexibility to innovate, be creative, access new resources and control their own futures. Reforms will streamline decision-making and remove barriers to development.
Community Right to Build
This measure will give local communities the power to take forward development in their area without the need to apply for planning permission, subject to meeting certain safeguards and securing 50 per cent support of the community through a referendum. It will be for communities to identify suitable land, sources of finance and secure support for their proposals, but we will put in place arrangements to provide help and guidance. This right aims to tackle the lack of development coming forward in rural areas where local planning authorities are resistant to development and consequently restrict expansion despite communities themselves expressing a wish to see new housing and other facilities built. Communities will be able to safeguard the future of rural villages for future generations by providing the framework to develop without being told that it does not fit with their local council’s plans and should not go ahead.
Duty to cooperate
We are introducing a duty to cooperate to ensure that local authorities and public bodies cooperate with each other. The duty will be a key element of our proposals for strategic working once Regional Strategies are abolished. Working alongside the incentives that we are implementing, such as the New Home Bonus and Business Rates, it will act as a strong driver to change the behaviour of local authorities.
To strengthen the role of local communities in planning, the Bill will introduce a new requirement for prospective developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for very large developments. This is intended to give local people a real chance to comment on proposed developments which may have an impact on them, and to collaborate on issues such as design at an early stage, when they still have a real change to influence proposals before they are finalised.
Developers will be required to have regard to any opinions raised during this consultation when deciding whether to make any changes before submitting their planning applications.
In order to engage in the planning system individuals and communities need to know that – where people try to flout the system – local planning authorities have the ability to take action. These proposals will tackle abuses like making deliberately misleading planning applications and running retrospective planning applications and enforcement appeals simultaneously.
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission)
This measure will replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission with an efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects and ensures Parliamentary approval of National Policy Statements (National Policy Statements) before they can be designated. The current system for consenting applications for major infrastructure projects is unaccountable. Decisions on applications for major infrastructure projects should be taken by Ministers, who are democratically accountable, rather than by an unelected quango. The Government also wants to ensure that National Policy Statements are as robust as possible, and minimise the risk of successful judicial review. The Government will ensure that National Policy Statements are approved by Parliament to ensure the strongest possible democratic legitimacy.
More to follow shortly…
Written by Nick Sutcliffe