New housing and planning bill promises to reform the planning system in England

The long-awaited Housing and Planning Bill has been published and looks set to shake up the planning system as part of the Government’s commitment to build more homes. 

The key proposals in this wide-ranging Bill have been well trailed over the past few months but publication heralds the beginning of a series of reforms that will affect local planning authorities, planners and developers in England.

The key planning reforms introduced in the Bill are listed below:

  • Local authorities will be under a new legal duty to promote the supply of Starter Homes when preparing local plans and determining planning applications. The Secretary of State will also have a power to make regulations requiring that planning permission can only be granted for certain residential developments if a Section 106 agreement secures a proportion of Starter Homes on the site or allows a financial contribution towards a local authority’s provision of Starter Homes.
  • Government will be given new powers to intervene if a local authority fails to have a local plan in place by 2017. The Secretary of State will be able to step in and produce a local plan for any local authority that fails to make and adopt a local plan by 2017.
  • Measures will be introduced to strengthen the neighbourhood planning process. The Bill will introduce new powers enabling the Secretary of State to prescribe time periods within which local authorities must undertake key neighbourhood planning decisions and intervene in a local authority’s decision on whether to hold a referendum on a neighbourhood development order.
  • Automatic planning permission in principle may be granted for the development of brownfield land. The Bill gives the Secretary of State new power to grant by a development order permission in principle to land that is allocated for development in a qualifying document. Initially only land allocated in the new register of brownfield land that local authorities will be required to prepare and maintain will be capable of obtaining permission in principle. The current intention is to limit permission in principle to minor housing developments of fewer than 10 units.
  • New powers will be introduced to grant development consent for housing which is linked to an application for a nationally significant infrastructure project. Further guidance will be published setting out the details of the amount of housing that may be granted consent within a development consent order but will include housing that is functionally or geographically linked to the infrastructure project such as housing required for workers during the construction phase.
  • Further planning powers will be devolved to the Mayor of London. In particular, the Secretary of State can, by development order, enable the Mayor to direct a London borough to consult the Mayor before granting planning permission for development described in the direction.

In addition, the Bill introduces a range of measures which will bring much needed clarity to the compulsory purchase regime. The proposals include a new power of entry for acquiring authorities for survey purposes; publication of a timetable setting out the steps to be taken by confirming authorities in confirming a compulsory purchase order; and clarifying the time limit for exercising compulsory purchase powers for notice to treat or general vesting declarations.

The Bill will now be subject to close Parliamentary scrutiny as makes its way through the legislative process. A date for the second reading of the Bill when the key principles will be debated has not yet been set.

This article first appeared in Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service, and has been reproduced with their permission. For more information about Law-Now, click here.