Improving the use of planning conditions

Print publication


Following the ‘Technical Consultation on Planning’ (the Technical Consultation) held by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) between 31 July and 29 September 2014, the Government has outlined further changes that will take effect.


The Report, entitled ‘Improving the use of planning conditions’ (March 2015), is the latest response issued following the Technical Consultation. In November 2014, DCLG announced plans to carry forward a ‘deemed discharge procedure’ for planning conditions. However, the most recent publication relates to the Technical Consultation’s proposals to:

  • reduce the time limit for returning the fee on an application to confirm compliance with conditions;
  • require sharing of draft conditions with applicants for major development prior to permission being granted; and
  • require local planning authorities (LPAs) to justify the use of pre-commencement conditions.

It is hoped that the package of measures will address unnecessary delays in the delivery of developments, particularly the provision of new homes. It is felt hold-ups currently arise both due to (1) LPAs’ tendency to impose too many conditions in the initial permission-stage and (2) delays in clearance of conditions.

Changes to Planning Conditions

Fee refund:

  • The deadline after which a party that has applied for confirmation of compliance with planning conditions becomes entitled to a fee refund is changing to eight weeks. This is a reduction from the current 12 weeks.
  • This applies if the applicant has not received notification from the LPA of the LPA’s decision within the time-frame. The applicant and the LPA can agree an alternative deadline in writing.
  • A change will be made to secondary legislation at the earliest opportunity, but only after the ‘deemed discharge’ process is in place, so the two elements can operate together.

Sharing of draft conditions with applicants

  • DCLG are not implementing the requirement for LPAs to share a draft of proposed conditions with the applicant before a decision is made on major planning applications.
  • It has been decided this would reduce flexibility and potentially lengthen decision-making, even though there was broad support for the proposal.
  • However the good example set by many LPAs that already share draft conditions is encouraged, with the hope that other LPAs follow suit.
  • Further work is to be undertaken to decide how sharing of planning conditions can be facilitated and work effectively.

Pre-commencement conditions

  • LPAs will have to justify the use of pre-commencement conditions.
  • So for any condition that requires action before on-site development work begins, the LPA must give written justification explaining why the matter has to be addressed pre-development.
  • This is in addition to the existing statutory requirement to justify the imposition of all conditions.
  • Consideration will be given as to whether this measure should apply more broadly, so with justification being required for any condition where steps must be carried out before development proceeds.

Changes to Statutory Consultee Arrangements

In December 2014, DCLG launched a separate consultation considering statutory consultee arrangements for planning applications (the Consultee Consultation). Some changes have already been implemented which impact on third party consultees’ role in the planning process. However at the same time as its announcement on planning conditions, the Government has responded to the Consultee Consultation.

  • The Lead Local Flood Authority (the LLFA) is to be a statutory consultee for major development applications with drainage and surface water implications.
    Consideration will be given to further expansion of the LLFA’s consultation role in due course.
  • Alteration of the thresholds for involving the Environment Agency as a statutory consultee in certain planning applications. Applications for cemeteries and petrol stations are not included in this.
  • LPAs must consult water and sewerage undertakers in relation to shale oil and gas development.
  • No well consent can be issued to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing unless the appropriate water and sewerage company has been consulted prior to planning permission being granted.