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The seemingly relentless tide of changes to the planning system continues with vigour: a brief summary of where we are and what is to come

Any practitioner could be forgiven for feeling a little dizzy even before we reach the festive season proper. Keeping up with the changes introduced over the last twelve months, let alone being familiar with and digesting the potential implications of the imminent further significant changes, is no mean feat.

In tune with the festive spirit, a little help is at hand, however. Commons briefing paper SN06418 “Planning Reform Proposals”, 13 December 2016, helpfully sets out the position and is recommended to those looking for a meaningful overview of the recent and proposed reforms.

The briefing paper reminds us of the key changes brought in by the Housing and Planning Act 2016, including those relating to starter homes, neighbourhood and local plans, nationally significant projects and housing, planning permission in principle and a dispute resolution process for section 106 planning obligations.

There is also reference the ongoing neighbourhood Planning Bill and the associated and very recent and significant Ministerial Statement relating to when neighbourhood plan policies can be considered to be out-of-date in the context of paragraphs 14 and 49 of the NPPF.

As the briefing paper summarises, further likely changes include:

  • Examining the rules allowing basement development;
  • Making changes to the setting of planning application fees;
  • Introducing a presumption in favour of housing on suitable brownfield land;
  • Making changes to the operation of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL);
  • New permitted development rights for certain upwards extensions in London;
  • Incentivising the use of the local authority “duty to cooperate ”; and
  • To allow for higher density housing around commuter hubs.

The delayed Housing White Paper is now expected in January 2017. This will also deal with the Government’s response to the as yet unpublished Peace Committee Report on CIL, as well as the published recommendations of the Local Plans Expert Group (where those had not already been included in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill). So there is much afoot, as the Government continues its tenacious pursuit of increasing housing delivery, whilst at the same time being loyal to its localism agenda.

Happy reading and happy Christmas!