Changes to Local Development Plans and national policy
The current test for determining applications is “the determination must be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise” (S38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.
The test will be changed, by section 83 (2) of the bill which states: “the determination must be made in accordance with the development plan and any national development management policies, unless material considerations strongly indicate otherwise.”
The bill also addresses potential conflict between local and national policies by giving a priority to national policies: “If to any extent the development plan conflicts with a national development management policy, the conflict must be resolved in favour of the national development management policy”
The bill clarifies the document that form the local development plan:
“(a) each spatial development strategy that is operative in relation to that area,
(b) each local plan which has effect in relation to that area,
(c) each minerals and waste plan which has effect in relation to that area,
(d) each supplementary plan which has effect in relation to that area,
(e) each neighbourhood development plan which has been made in relation to that area, and
(f) each policies map for that area.”
However, the definition of a “national development management policy” remains vague at this stage: “A “national development management policy” is a policy (however expressed) of the Secretary of State in relation to the development or use of land in England, or any part of England, which the Secretary of State by direction designates as a national development management policy”
A new format for Local Plans
In line with the change in the weight of all documents forming the Local Development Plan, given the introduction of national development management policies, the bill also aims to reduce the size of Local Plans.
The objective of the bill is to make local plans closer aligned to national policies and to not repeat policies at local level e.g. , protection of heritage assets, Green Belt presumptions.
A new Consultation on NPPF and National Development Management Policies was also announced. The importance of the National and Local Design Codes will be emphasised.
The bill also includes articles to increase community engagement with Street Votes. However, the details of how such votes could work will be provided at a later stage. Speculation in the media that this could result in residents voting against their neighbour’s extension are presumably wide of the mark.
Changes would also include the plan-making process: The 5-year housing land supply will no longer be a requirement for the first 5 years following the adoption of a local plan, and the Duty to Cooperate will also be scrapped and replaced by a policy test of alignment between local authorities. Local planning authorities will now have the possibility to work together on ‘joint spatial development strategies’. It is unclear how all these changes will work but the aim is to allow more judgement in the adoption of Local Plans.
The bill also promotes the digital transformation of planning with the development of digital platforms for easier an access to planning applications, following the first experiments with BOPS and RIPA.
The Bill also includes new statutory duties for the LPAs to identify historic records and keep up to date records.
And following the success of street terraces and Al fresco dining in town centres, the government intends to reform pavement licences to make the licencing process cheaper, easier and make the terraces permanent.
The bill also includes provisions regarding how planning obligations (S106 agreements) and the new infrastructure levy will interact. However, the details of the changes will only be known at a later stage, with the use of a statutory instrument.
We will have to wait for the amendments to the bill and its final version. WEA Planning will be keeping a close eye on any government announcements regarding the Bill in the coming months.
If you have a site you would like to develop and are unsure what the Bill will mean for you, please give WEA Planning a call or send us an email/contact form to discuss your project.
This article is authored by Thomas Tinel. With thanks to the sources below.