Tories’ Open Source Planning

The Conservative party has published its long heralded Green Paper “Open Source Planning.” The paper promises radical change to the planning system to reinvigorate the construction and development industries.

Whist some of the proposals have been discussed in the public domain for sometime, others have caused more surprise.

The key headline points are:

* The abolition of regional planning, regional spatial strategies and regional planning bodies;

* A flexible zoning approach to enable local authorities through their local plans to permit specific changes of use within individual areas;

* Introduction of third party rights of appeal;

* All appeals (whether by developers or third parties) to be limited to two grounds only. First, that the correct procedure was not followed in assessing the application and secondly that the decision reached was in contravention of the relevant local plans;

* Appeals made on ground of abuse of process will be dealt with by the Local Government Ombudsman.;

* A presumption in favour of sustainable development. Legislation will make it unlawful for local planning authority to refuse planning permission for development if it conforms with the local plan, is accompanied by payment of an agreed level of local tariff and in respect of larger projects has been subject to appropriate public consultation process;

* Enhanced enforcement powers where applications have mislead the community about the scale and design of the development proposed.

* Abolition of the Community Infrastructure Levy and replacement with a single unified local tariff. Planning obligations to be scaled back to purely site specific matters;

* Increased powers for local residents. Where more than a small minority of residents in the immediate vicinity of a new development raise an objection this will trigger rejection of the presumption in favour of sustainable development;

* The Infrastructure Planning Commission will be abolished and replaced by a Major Infrastructure Unit;

* Major linear schemes will be promoted through hybrid or private builds in Parliament. All other major infrastructure projects will be determined by short and focused planning inquires carried out by the new Major Infrastructure Unit with the ultimate decision made by the Secretary of State;

* A new national planning framework to be published. PPS’s and PPG’s to be re‑evaluated and scaled back;

* A reversal of the classification of gardens as brownfield land;

* Legislation to enable Councillors to campaign on specific issues and vote on those issues without fear of breaking rules of predetermination;

* An automatic right of change of use of any building to an educational use as permitted development;

* A requirement that all existing land currently used for educational purposed must be kept as such unless the Secretary of State agrees to an application for change of use;

* A reintroduction of the “Needs Test” for retail development; and

* Restrictions on the ability to apply for retrospective planning permission.

In the event of a Conservative government after the forthcoming general election it will be interesting to see how many of these points survive the consultation and legislative processes.

There are a number of points that will cause real concern to developers particularly the enhanced powers for local residents and third party rights of appeal. Some critics have labelled the paper a “Nimby’s Charter” and it is difficult to see how it will produce a faster and more predictable system.

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