Technical Consultation on Planning 31 July to 26 September 2014

The consultation asks 76 questions on a range of reforms which it is suggested will help facilitate more development and growth by making the planning system quicker and more efficient – the online response form is at

The consultation includes sections on neighbourhood planning, permitted development, planning conditions, planning applications, environmental impact assessment and nationally significant infrastructure projects

On 31 July 2014 the government published the document ‘Technical Consultation on Planning’, a consultation on additional reforms to the planning system.

These include reforms divided into six sections:

  • Neighbourhood planning
  • Permitted development rights
  • Planning conditions
  • Planning applications
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Nationally significant infrastructure projects.

1 Neighbourhood planning

The government says that it wants to make the neighbourhood planning process ‘simpler and speedier’.

Proposals include:

  • requiring local planning authorities (LPAs) to decide whether to designate certain neighbourhood areas within 10 weeks
  • removing the minimum 6-week consultation and publicity period for draft plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build orders
  • introducing an additional basic statutory condition to check that the scope and nature of this consultation has been adequate and properly considered in the plan or Order proposal
  • countering concerns that independent examiners have not always had enough information to assess the environmental impact of neighbourhood plans – the consultation suggests that future plans are accompanied by a statement of reasons why the proposed plan is unlikely to have significant environmental effects (a screening opinion), an environmental report, or an explanation of why the proposed plan does not require screening or environmental assessment.

2 Permitted development rights

The consultation proposes that the existing temporary office to residential permitted development rights, and those that relate to dwelling extensions, be made permanent from May 2016 (when the temporary amendments expire).

To attempt to address concerns about the new rules eroding the amount of office space available, a change will be made to the prior approval regime. Under the proposals set out in the consultation, as well as considering  the impact of a proposed permitted development on highways and transport, flooding and contamination, LPAs  would also need to assess the potential impact of the ‘significant loss of the most strategically important office accommodation’, while ensuring that this does not undermine the provision of more housing.

Other proposed changes include new permitted development rights to allow:

  • warehouses (B1(c) and B8), laundrettes, amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs to convert to housing without planning permission
  • A1 and A2 premises and launderettes, amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs to change use to restaurants and cafes, assembly and leisure uses.

The consultation also proposes introducing a range of other permitted development rights.

The consultation proposes Use Class changes such as:

  • the A1 class be broadened to include most of the uses that are currently A2 (financial and professional services such as banks, estate agents and employment agencies)
  • change of use to A2 use classes be subject to planning permission
  • betting shops and pay day loan shops would be defined as A2 use class, and would therefore require planning permission.

3 Planning conditions

The government states that:

‘too many overly restrictive and unnecessary conditions are attached routinely to planning permissions, with no regard given to the additional costs and delays on sites which have already secured planning permission.’

It proposes tackling this by:

  • creating a ‘deemed discharge’ for certain types of conditions where the LPA does not make a timely decision.
  • requiring that LPAs share draft conditions with applicants for major developments before making a decision.
  • requiring LPAs to justify pre-commencement conditions.

4 Planning applications

The government believes that the existing duty for statutory consultees (English Heritage, Natural England and the Highways Authority)  to issue a ‘substantive response’ to an LPA even when they have no comment they wish to make results in ‘unnecessary bureaucracy for consultees and reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application process’.

The aim is to ensure that statutory consultees are ‘consulted in a proportionate way on those developments where their input is most valuable’.

5 Environmental impact assessment

The government believes that LPAs, concerned about the risk of a legal challenge, are requiring an environmental impact assessment from development applications ‘which are not likely to give rise to significant effects’.

The government proposes raising the screening thresholds for certain types of development:

  • industrial estate development (including manufacturing, trading, distribution, and transport projects): raising the existing threshold of 0.5 hectares to 5
  • urban development projects (including housing): also to 5 hectares – the government has calculated that for housing schemes, based on an average housing density of 30 dwellings per hectare, the new higher threshold will equate to around 150 units.

6 Nationally significant infrastructure projects

The government wishes to improve and simplify the existing system by amending regulations for making changes to Development Consent Orders, which provide planning consent for nationally significant infrastructure projects, and increasing the number of consents and licenses that can be included within an Order.