Key changes to Planning in the UK
The coalition government are driving forward huge changes to the planning system this year…so this page will be regularly updated with new information about what’s happening in the planning system. However, until these changes are made, the old/current system still stands!
The publication, Friends of the Earth, The English Planning System: An overview, although slightly out of date (written in 2009) provides an excellent visual summary of the current planning system.
But key changes to this planning system are imminent…
The Decentralisation and Localism Bill, often referred to as just the Localism Bill, (see Plain English version of Localism Bill and Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide) will give much greater planning responsibilities to people at the local level and will remove top-down target-setting. As a result, communities will have both the responsibility and the opportunity to deal with climate change.
In order to empower people at the local level, the Localism Bill will be implementing some key changes, some of which will affect how local communities can interact with the planning system:
The Abolition of Regional Strategies
The purpose of Regional Strategies is to define where new development needs to take place in each part of the country, including housing targets for different areas, energy targets and policies, and infrastructure ‘improvements’. To date, local communities have had relatively limited opportunities to influence these strategies.
However, the Localism Bill states that it is intending to abolish these regional strategies. This will mean that local authorities will have a greater responsibility for decisions about the developments that take place in their area and will be able to reconsider their targets. This may provide the opportunity for communities to put forward their views and ensure that new developments support sustainable communities and low carbon development.
Communities will be given the opportunity to develop a “neighbourhood development plan” which should enable them to influence the future of their area.These neighbourhood development plans can be very basic and simple, or, with the help of the local authorities who will be required to provide technical advice and support, could be very complex and detailed. Potentially, neighbourhood planning could allow communities to set their own clear sustainability and low carbon criteria for new developments, and so take a real step forward in adapting and mitigating to climate change. These plans may also allow communities to show that they actively support low carbon developments (which could be wind turbines, or a ‘passive housing’ estate) within their local area.
Community Right to Build
Small groups of local people will be given the chance to get together a build a small development (such as some houses or shops). As the developments will have been instigated by locals, the benefits of the developments could also stay within the community. Through this opportunity, communities will be able to support low carbon developments (however, unfortunately it may mean that local developments may also not be low carbon – depending on the community who does the developing!)
A new requirement for developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for very large developments will be put in place which means that local people will be able to get their views heard on issues such as the sustainability of the development when there is still the opportunity for the proposals to be adapted.
The government aims to achieve these changes by radically reforming the Planning system. They have already announced the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission and are going to replace it with an efficient and democratically accountable system that will provide a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects.
IMPORTANT: A new National Planning Policy Framework draft was released on 25 July 2011 which will replace all existing national planning policy and guidance including PPS1 (Delivering Sustainable Development) and PPS22 (Renewables).