National parks will be exempt from changes to the use class system to make it easier for empty farm buildings to be converted to homes, planning minister Nick Boles has confirmed as he published a final version of new suite of revised and condensed planning guidance.
In a written ministerial statement this morning, Boles said that the government would today cancel all previous planning practice guidance documents.
A beta version of the new online guidance, drawn up by Lord Taylor, was published in August last year.
Taylor’s report described the current system as "unfit for purpose" and recommended that the 237 guidance documents in use should be replaced with a single, up-to-date online resource.
Boles’ statement said the final version would:
In the same statement Boles also announced the result of a consultation, published last year, into greater flexibilities in the use class system.
- Encourage joint working between local authorities, but clarify "that the duty to co-operate is not a duty to accept. We have considered and rejected the proposals of HM’s Opposition to allow councils to undermine Green Belt protection and dump development on their neighbours’ doorstep".
- Incorporate guidance on renewable energy (including heritage and amenity) published during last summer and make it clearer in relation to solar farms, that visual impact is a particular factor for consideration.
- Clarify when councils can consider refusing permission on the grounds of prematurity in relation to draft plans.
- Issue "robust guidance on flood risk, making it crystal clear that councils need to consider the strict tests set out in national policy, and where these are not met, new development on flood risk sites should not be allowed".
- Make clear that local plans "can pass the test of soundness where authorities have not been able to identify land for growth in years 11 - 15 of their Local Plan, which often can be the most challenging part for a local authority".
The minister said: "Further reforms will save time and money for applicants and councils, encourage the re-use of empty and under-used buildings and further support brownfield regeneration while ensuring regard to potential flood risk".
Under the changes, redundant or under-used agricultural buildings, up to 450 square metres on an individual farm, will be able to change to provide a maximum of three houses.
In line with lobbying from national parks, Boles said the change would not apply in national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
However, he added: "We expect national parks and other local planning authorities to take a positive and proactive approach to sustainable development, balancing the protection of the landscape with the social and economic wellbeing of the area. National Parks and other protected areas are living communities whose young people and families need access to housing if their communities are to grow and prosper".
Boles also paved the way to make it easier to covert retail premises into new homes in areas outside main shopping zones.
But Boles maintained safeguards would still be in place to ensure services are not lost from these areas. He said: "We recognise the importance of retaining adequate provision of services that are essential to the local community such as post offices.
"Consideration will be given to the impact on local services when considering the potential loss of a particular shop. The onus will be on the local planning authority to establish that the proposal would have a detrimental impact on the sustainability of a key shopping area or on local services should they wish to refuse the conversion".
The online planning guidance can be found here.
Councillors have refused plans for 600 homes on a greenfield site on the outskirts of Harrogate in North Yorkshire against the advice of officers.The outline application, which also proposed a new primary school, community or retail facilities and open space, was jointly submitted by Woodard Corporation, Hallam Management Ltd and Persimmon Homes.
It was rejected by members of Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee on Tuesday who were concerned about the impact on traffic levels.
Officers had recommended approval because the scheme would help address the council’s lack of a five-year housing land supply. The 28-hectare site, of which 17.5 hectares would be for housing, is described in the officers’ report as "open fields". The report goes on to say that the site is identified as an urban extension in the council’s draft local plan, which was submitted for examination last November.
Addressing concerns that an approval would be premature in advance of the emerging local plan coming into force, the document states: "It would be difficult to conclude that an approval for this scheme would constitute prematurity within the context of current guidance.
"This is further re-enforced by the fact that the council cannot demonstrate a five-year housing land supply."
According to the most recent study by the council, its housing land supply stands at 4.7 years.
The report adds: "In the absence of a five-year housing land supply the council must consider the advice contained within the [National Planning Policy Framework], which creates a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
"The site is a draft allocation in the sites and policies [development plan document] and is proposed to form a substantial part of the council's five year housing land supply."
The scheme’s proposed access road, the only detailed matter considered by the committee, was judged to be acceptable by the North Yorkshire County Council highways team, the report says. It adds: "A package of off-site highway improvements will ensure that the site is both sustainable and accessible."
The document concludes: "Overall, it is considered that the benefits arising from the development do outweigh the adverse impacts and whilst the site is being considered prior to the adoption of the [local plan] it does accord with emerging policy SG6 and the NPPF is clear that a refusal on the grounds of prematurity would not be justified in these circumstances."
It said the application prompted 260 objections, an e-petition with 203 signatures and one letter of support.
The objections raised concerns about the application’s prematurity in advance of the examination of the draft local plan, development of greenfield land and the scheme’s scale and density.
Another worry was the impact on local traffic levels and the development’s access road being close to a roundabout.
Among the objectors were the Ministry of Defence, which said the development was likely to increase traffic on local roads.
The officers report can be found here.Source: Planningresource
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been urged by MPs to reconsider plans to axe a policy that has driven up home building standards and helped to create a thriving sustainable building industry in the UK.Environmental Audit Committee Chair Joan Walley MP said:“The Secretary of State should think again before demolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes. The policy has been a big success in driving up home building standards, delivering local choice and supporting green exports. Building materials manufacturers in the UK told us that they use the Code as a green kitemark when they sell their products abroad.”
The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee criticised the Department for its decision to remove local authorities’ discretion to set high standards on energy and water saving—using the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH)—in favour of a lowest-common-denominator national standard.
Joan Walley MP pointed out:“The Coalition Agreement promised that the Government would ‘return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils’, but this decision bulldozes local choice in favour of a one-size-fits-all approach designed to benefit developers who want to build homes on the cheap.”
DCLG’s proposed needs test on the application of sustainability standards by local authorities also risks becoming a lawyers’ charter, according to the MPs. It could curtail local choice, delay the construction of new homes and compel local authorities to incur unnecessary legal fees.
The inquiry found that DCLG failed to take into account the latest evidence on the declining capital costs of fitting clean energy technology to homes in its Housing Standards Review. The MPs also discovered that the 2016 zero carbon homes standard has been successively watered down. The report pointed out that the CSH is a proven policy mechanism for driving incremental improvements in sustainable home building. Once-difficult-to-achieve lower-level CSH standards on energy use have been successfully embedded in Building Regulations over the six years since the policy was introduced. DCLG has not set out a replacement mechanism to drive sustainability in the future.
The Committee recommended that DCLG:
Joan Walley MP concluded:“Hundreds of thousands of homes have to be built in the coming decades. Smart energy and water saving measures – which will ultimately save homeowners money on their bills – must become the norm if we want our homes to be fit for the future.“The Code for Sustainable Homes incentivises developers and designers to think about sustainability from the outset of a project and throughout the development process. It is a proven and flexible way of pushing up home building standards and should not be dropped.”Source: Commons Select Committee
- examines the latest research on the decreasing cost of clean energy technologies;
- maintains and refreshes the CSH as a tool for local authorities to lever in sustainability;
- retains CSH standards on sustainable construction materials to support green exports and green growth.
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The planning minister has said that the government will more than halve the number of technical planning regulations in response to a review in which businesses and members of the public were asked to nominate red tape to be changed or removed.In a written ministerial statement issued yesterday afternoon, Nick Boles announced the outcome of the government’s Red Tape Challenge planning administration theme, which sought views on how to make the planning system more efficient and accessible.
Boles said that the government had received around 150 comments in response to the consultation, in which more than 180 regulations were scrutinised. Boles said: "Of the 182 regulations on which we consulted and following a rigorous challenge process, we propose, through a prioritised and phased programme, to reduce the overall number of planning regulations to 78: a reduction of 57 per cent." In his statement, Boles said that the principal changes that the government intends to make to the regulations would include consolidating the rules on development that does not require a planning application. He said: "The current permitted development regulations have been amended 17 times, and need an overhaul to make the arrangements accessible and easy to use for all."
Boles added that the government would merge a number of regulations in relation to major infrastructure projects and hazardous substances to "simplify and clarify those consent process". He said that 38 redundant regulations that are no longer needed would be scrapped altogether.
In a statement, the Department for Communities and Local Government said that the changes would help simplify the planning process, but "will not change planning policy or environmental protections".
The planning minister also said that the government would "develop and bring forward later this year additional measures to streamline and improve the end-to-end planning process to address other issues raised through the consultation, including reducing delays in development underway on sites caused by planning conditions".
The DCLG chose consultant Roger Hepher, Savills’ head of planning, and Mike Kiely, the London Borough of Croydon’s head of planning, as its two "sector champions" for the Red Tape Challenge initiative.
Sector champions are high-profile industry figures who the government appoints to help it carry out the red tape simplification task.
Red Tape Challenge - Planning Administration: List of Regulations to be improved or scrapped is available here.
The government has said it is minded to create a set of 'nationally described standards' for house-building which would be set out in a new planning policy statement to limit the amount of housing standards imposed by councils on builders.
A consultation, published today, proposes changes to how areas including accessibility, space standards, security, water efficiency and energy efficiency are dealt with through building regulations and planning regulations.
It says that the changes proposed would be a "radical reform of the framework of building regulations, guidance, local codes and standards which aimed to reduce bureaucracy and costs on house-builders - supporting growth whilst delivering quality, sustainability, safety and accessibility".
The document says the government said it is "minded at this stage to group the standards proposed in this consultation into a simple, short, ‘nationally described standards’ document that will reduce cost and complexity for house-builders".
It says that these standards would be imposed on dwellings, by a condition on a planning permission.
The document says: "When finalised (post consultation) each standard will carry with it a needs test i.e. the evidence criteria which local planning authorities would have to demonstrate to planning inspectors if they wish to apply a particular standard in their area. The test will be rigorous. The clear aim is that authorities will only be able to adopt standards that are strictly necessary and justifiable and will not default to adopting them all because they are seen as nice to have".
The consultation says a new planning policy statement would be published post-consultation to "set out that the government accords the standards document a very high priority. It will be a material consideration that local planning authorities should take into account when granting planning permission for development and authorities will need to have regard to the standard when preparing relevant policies for inclusion in local plans. The inclusion of any such standard in a local plan can be thoroughly tested through the examination process".
It says that local planning authorities would be "encouraged to bring their local plans up to date to align with the new standards".
"The statement will make it clear that, going forward, there is a national policy expectation that local planning authorities limit the use of discretionary standards in future to those which are proposed by the Review", the document says.
Elsewhere, the document says that the government considers that it will need to "consider the role of the Planning and Energy Act 2008, which allows local authorities to set policies for on-site renewables on new homes". It says
that the Act "may need to be amended or removed" in light of its proposed changes.
It says: "The government considers ... that the progressive strengthening of building regulations means it is no longer appropriate for local plan policies to specify additional standards for how much of the energy use from homes should come from on-site renewables. Developers should be free to decide the most appropriate solutions to meet stronger building regulations".
The document also says that government "does not have a preferred approach on space standards at this time … and takes the view that further work will be necessary to develop improved analysis if a space standard is to be taken forward including further exploration of areas which impact on the cost of affordable housing".
But it adds: "Overall, it is clear that in many respects the market is performing well in the absence of national space
standards and government’s preference remains for market led solutions".
The document also includes measures, announced by communities secretary Eric Pickles last week, to ensure new developments include provision for bin storage areas when building new homes.
A very welcome and common sense based approach, though it is still a shame that we have to wait for consultation to run to the end of October. This, for anyone involved within the industry, has been one that has been blindingly obvious for quite some time as we work towards implementing CfSH level 6 affordably.
Redundant agricultural buildings could be converted to homes, schools or
nurseries without planning permission under government proposals for new
permitted development rights published yesterday.
The proposed changes to the use class rules follow previous amendments
which allowed for agricultural buildings to be changed to commercial use.
The consultation document published yesterday seeks view on five proposals for permitted development rights to allow:
- Shops and financial and professional services to change use to a dwelling house.
- Existing buildings used for agricultural purposes of up to 150 square metres to change to residential use.
Further details on the proposed changes to retail uses can be found here.
- - Retail uses to change to banks and building societies only.
- - Premises used as offices, hotels, residential and non-residential institutions, and leisure and assembly to be able to change use to nurseries providing childcare.
- - A building used for agricultural purposes of up to 500 square metres to be used as a new state funded school or a nursery providing childcare.
The document says that, in framing a new permitted development right for an agricultural building to change to
residential use (C3) with the associated physical development to allow conversion, it is proposed that the right would:
- Allow up to 3 additional dwelling houses (which includes flats) to be converted on an agricultural unit which existed at the time that the intention to consult was announced in the Budget Statement of 20 March 2013.
- - Have an upper threshold of 150 square metres for a single dwelling house;
- - Enable the physical development necessary to allow for the conversion, and where appropriate the demolition and rebuild, of the property on the same footprint;
- - Require local planning authority prior approval for siting and design to ensure physical development complies with local plan policies on design, materials and outlook;
- - Require local planning authority prior approval for transport and highways impact, noise impact, contamination and flooding risks to ensure that change of use takes place only in sustainable locations; - Apply to agricultural buildings constructed prior to announcement of the proposal to consult in the Budget Statement of 20 March 2013;
- Apply in article 1(5) land as set out in the General Permitted Development Order (i.e. conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage sites).
The consultation also proposes bringing forward provisions "for allowing change of use to state-funded schools as well as nurseries providing childcare". It says that the permitted development would "allow for change of use with prior approval where the gross floorspace of the building is less than 500 square metres".
It says that the prior approval "will cover noise, transport, flooding and contamination".
The Department for Communities and Local Government said the proposals would support "working parents in rural communities by allowing for the provision of new schools and nurseries, meaning families can continue to live in their rural community, and protect the countryside by ensuring previously developed land is used first".
The consultation closes on 15 October 2013.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles issued a notice which gives him more time to consider whether to call in plans to demolish 291 homes in the Saltwell area of Gateshead, weeks after doing the same on a similar scheme in Liverpool.
Pickles issued the Article 25 notice yesterday which indefinitely extends his 21-day window to decide whether an application should be called in for his determination. Last month Pickles issued another Article 25 notice putting a controversial Liverpool regeneration scheme on hold after councillors backed proposals to demolish up to 440 homes in the area. The homes in both cities had been identified for demolition under the previous government’s controversial Pathfinder initiative.
In June 2011 a judge declared that Gateshead’s demolition of 115 homes was unlawful. Campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage had obtained interim injunctions to halt the demolitions but these were ultimately discharged by the courts in November 2010 and the council began demolition work. A meeting of Gateshead Council’s Planning and Development Committee was yesterday due to consider a retrospective application for the 115 demolitions along with an application for a further 291 demolitions.
The application was for the retrospective demolition of the 115 dwellings, 3 retail units, and 14 garages and the phased demolition of the further 291 dwellings and 4 commercial premises.
There was also a hybrid application for redevelopment of all three phases for housing, with associated car parking and landscaping, consisting of 103 new homes in Phase 1 (Saltwell Road West) and outline consent for residential development across Phases 2 and 3.
A planning report submitted to the committee had recommended that the demolitions go ahead. The report said planning permission should be granted "because, on balance, the need for housing in the borough, in particular affordable housing, the greening of the area and the increase in housing choice that this development will bring to the area, outweigh the concerns raised".
"The development of this site is crucial to the overall Bensham and Saltwell regeneration effort. By developing these new homes, residents in the surrounding area are anticipated to benefit from an attractive neighbourhood and improved living environment", it added.
Gateshead Council was asked for further details but had not responded at time of publication. The Department for
Communities and Local Government confirmed that the notice had been issued but would not make any further comment.
The planning minister has moved to allay fears of a guidance vacuum by rejecting a government-commissioned review's recommendation that out-of-date guidance should be cancelled immediately, before new streamlined advice is published.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today published its response to a consultation on the recommendations of Lord Taylor's review of planning guidance.
The review, which reported last year, had described the current system of planning guidance as "unfit for purpose" and recommended that the 200-plus guidance documents in use should be replaced with a single online resource.
The review called for the creation of completely new guidance for areas introduced by planning reforms that have
recently come into force, such as the Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework.
Today, the DCLG said that it had accepted the majority of the report's recommendations. But it said that it had not accepted the review's recommendation for an immediate cancellation of a substantial body of guidance.
In its response to the consultation, the department said: "We believe that the current guidance should remain in place until the new guidance suite is ready. We consider this important to ensure that there is no gap or perceived gap in the provision of guidance, and so will not be accepting the recommendation to cancel any material ahead of the new guidance being available."
The DCLG also said that it had rejected the review's recommendation that the government should "signpost" best practice material produced by the sector.
The consultation response said: "We will only signpost - and therefore link to - other government departments, statutory consultees, and other government bodies, and will not endorse specific documents."
In a statement, planning minister Nick Boles said that the government would publish "significantly reduced" planning guidance. He said: "In light of the positive response to this consultation, we are carefully considering the implementation of the review group’s recommendations.
"We accept the majority of the report’s recommendations, with the exception of those on signposting best practice material produced by the sector and the immediate cancellation of out-of-date guidance."
The DCLG's chief planner, Steve Quartermain, this morning told a seminar organised by the British Property Federation that the new set of reduced planning guidance documents to be produced by the government is likely to include advice on the Environmental Impact Assessment process.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has said he is minded to approve a planning application for 366 homes on 32 hectares of agricultural land to the north east of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on grounds that the local council does not have an up-to-date policy to protect the site from development.
North Tyneside Council had rejected the hybrid application by Bellway Homes, which comprised a full application for 366 homes incorporating landscaping, wildlife corridors, open space, access and highways, and an outline application for up to 465 square metres of ancillary commercial development.
The council rejected the plans over concerns about traffic congestion, impact on biodiversity and the loss of safeguarded land contrary to local planning policy. The council later withdrew the first objection at the public inquiry.
A decision letter sent on behalf of Pickles this week said that the secretary of state had taken into account the fact that the site was designated as safeguarded land in the North Tyneside Unitary Development Plan (UDP) 2002.
It said that Pickles recognised that the land should be maintained in its open state "for at least the plan period" and he agreed with the inspector that the proposal would not comply with the UDP in that respect.
However, the letter added the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework, "the fact that the UDP is six years beyond its end date, and the timescale for the adoption of the core strategy as a first stage in preparing the local plan for the area can all be seen as arguments in favour of allowing development now on safeguarded land".
The letter said the secretary of state agreed with the inspector’s conclusions that the appeal scheme "would represent a sustainable form of development".
It said: "Although the proposal would not comply with the UDP policy regarding safeguarded land, that policy is now out-of-date and there is an acknowledged, although not substantial, shortfall in the
council’s five-year supply of deliverable housing sites.
"There would be significant economic and financial benefits to the area, including assisting in
housing delivery within the borough and a likely positive impact for employment. It would not impact negatively on the appearance and character of the area, or on highway or drainage considerations, and the Inspector found no convincing evidence to suggest that the development would be harmful to the social cohesiveness or well-being of the existing community".
The letter said Pickles would withhold a final decision until a scheme was in place that would overcome the "residual adverse impact on biodiversity that would arise from the appeal development by securing compensatory offsets". The secretary of state has given four weeks for agreement on this to be secured.
Click here to download the decision
from Compass Online (subscription service): DCS number
If there was ever proof needed that the Local Authorities in the north-east have been too slow to act, then this is certainly it! They have had more than ample time to ensure their Local Plan was in place.
The planning minister Nick Boles has told a conference that he would 'shoot' anyone who approaches him with fresh ideas for changes to the planning system.
Speaking at the National Infrastructure Planning Association conference in London yesterday, Boles remarked in a question and answer session that "if anyone comes to me with an idea for new planning legislation I am going to shoot them".
Planning lawyer Angus Walker, a partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell who attended the conference, said he understood Boles’ frustration.
"It would be a good idea to let the planning regime settle rather than tinkering with it further," Walker said.
Also at the conference, Boles said that a new "one-stop-shop" service intended to provide dedicated support for developers of nationally significant infrastructure projects and the pre-application stage of the process is now open for business. He urged developers to get in touch "as soon as they have a project in mind".
Earlier this week, Boles used a speech at another event to reiterate the government’s call for councils to encourage more people to build their own homes.
Speaking at the Grand Designs Live event in London, Boles said: "We urgently need to build more homes and now is the time for councils to act and earmark areas that encourage people to buy a plot of land and get a builder to build them a home".
Boles highlighted the work of Bristol City Council, which, he said, had pledged to make public land available for self build and called for architects to come up with ideas on how self build could improve housing supply in the city.
"We are determined to help families fulfil their dream of building their own home and are keen to work with the industry to showcase those councils leading the way in making specific sites available for self build, so aspiring
homeowners can turn their plans into a reality."