Local Planning and Housing Bill 2014-15 moves through Parliament

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The Local Planning and Housing Bill 2014-15 (the Bill) is currently being debated in Parliament, with its second reading in the House of Commons scheduled for mid-January 2015. This Private Member’s Bill was initially presented to the Chairman of the Commons’ Select Committee for Communities and Local Government on 16 December 2014 by Cheadle MP, Sir William Cash.

The Bill sets out to make provision for the clarification and supposed improvement of several areas of planning law in England and Wales, including in relation to Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans, affordable housing, sustainable development and the duration of planning permissions. A number of the changes would no doubt be welcomed by locals and residents facing development in their area. However, for local planning authorities (LPAs), developers, and landowners, the prospect is not necessarily so ‘bright’. The proposals outlined in the Bill include as detailed below.

  • Local and Neighbourhood Plans:
    • The Secretary of State (SoS) would introduce regulations outlining the grounds available to appeal against Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans. No appeal would be allowed outside the grounds.
    • Challenges to a Local Plan or Neighbourhood Plan in its ‘development’ stage could only be brought during the period the relevant Plan was made available by the LPA for public inspection.
    • An LPA could not consider any planning application made during a Plan’s consultation period that would be likely to conflict with the Plan’s contents, until after adoption of the Plan.
    • Following adoption, no challenge could be launched against a Plan for five years.
  • Housing Supply:
    • LPAs would have to take into account a range of factors when drawing-up housing supply forecasts, particularly including historic trends and projected economic growth.
    • New planning applications for housing development could only be considered where there is no housing stock in the LPA’s area.
    • Regulations would be introduced to direct how to calculate five-year housing land supply.
  • Land banking – all work on an approved site would have to be completed before the granting of planning permission for further work on the site.
  • Greenfield and green belt sites – planning permission could not be granted for development on such sites until all brownfield land in the LPA’s area had been developed (where suitable). LPAs should encourage brownfield use, with the SoS clarifying the definition of such land via regulations.
  • Duration of planning permission – the general condition limiting the duration of planning permission in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (section 91) would be amended, so planning permission would be valid for nine months as opposed to three years.
  • Sustainable housing development:
    • The SoS would define sustainable development via new regulations.
    • The definition would include (but not be limited to) ‘local necessity’, with local need determined based on the availability of locally-accessible work and suitable infrastructure for leisure facilities, education facilities, healthcare, public transport and roads.
  • Hearing / Appeal proceedings:
    • For local inquiries, a party would no longer be able to be summonsed to attend, give evidence, produce documents etc.  Failure to attend would no longer be a criminal offence.
    • The current provisions enabling a party to receive costs for attending and for the SoS to make orders as to costs payable would also be removed.
  • Review of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) – the SoS would be expected to commission a review of PINS’ role in hearing appeals and place the review report before Parliament.

During its first reading, no debate on the Bill was raised. However, the Bill must still undergo the Committee, Report and Third Reading stages in the Commons, before the same process is repeated in the Lords and subsequent amendments considered. Sir William Cash has also referred the matter to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) for further discussion.  It is therefore likely to be several months before the Bill becomes law, if at all. Even then, it may be a very different document from the initial draft currently available.