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No Deal Brexit and Planning

Gina Miller’s article in the New European over the weekend raises some challenges perhaps not on the radar of most. It assumes, if the government’s threat of a no-deal scenario were real, there would be evidence the government would be preparing and drafting legislation such as an Act of Parliament such as the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013. Whether or not that is true, Miller raises some interesting points regarding the types of provisions that would be needed if such a circumstance arises:  

“Such a Bill would have to make provisions authorising expenditure in preparation for compulsory land purchase orders to accommodate immigration offices, customs facilities, doubling up lanes for lorries, sanitary checks for perishable goods and areas for livestock inspections.”

Given the scale of infrastructure required at a time when the civil service and local authorities are cut to the bone, it is hard to see how all will be up and running quickly and that’s before looking at the inevitable land use issues and restrictions in areas such as Kent. Kent Planners will be in high demand!

Norton Fulbright has written a very useful summary of the larger impact of Brexit (deal or no deal) on UK planning law and practice. The key EU directive is the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 2011. There are others dating back further. They are transposed into UK legislation by way of various Town and Country Planning Acts and regulations.

The EIA is the most well known requirement for developers especially for those developments above a certain size. The Local Planning Authority must then take the statement into account when determining whether or not to grant planning permissions. Other strategic assessments involve the assessment of the environmental effects of public plans or programmes i.e. local development plans where there is likely to be what is deemed a “significant” impact on the environment.

The impact on these EU Directives and Regulations depends on the terms reach with the EU or no deal scenario. The closer the ties, the more likely an approach similar to Norway is taken whereby the UK will be required to comply with most European legislation. Beyond Brexit, the UK’s international treaty obligations will mean that the public access to environmental information is maintained. It is therefore likely EIAs will remain at least in part. In theory, the UK government will have greater flexibility to shape and even strengthen existing legislation post 2019. Although there have been groups arguing for less red tape, it could actually mean more effective lobbying from local interest groups. 

Beyond the environmental legislation, other impacts of Brexit on planning policy are too soon to tell. Contrary to the narrative during the referendum debates, I don’t foresee a huge reduction in population and the demand for housing will still require Local Planning Authorities to maintain their housing targets. There could be a reduction in demand for housing in London and the pressure on local infrastructure may subside a little. A Corbyn government would presumably require an ambitious social housing programme and a change to the Local Authority environment. 



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