Government Consultations: What’s been released?

Picture of Harry Quartermain

Harry Quartermain
July 28, 2023
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The Government likes to keep the development industry on its toes.

The last time there was a big announcement, significant planned changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) were announced a couple of days before Christmas. This consultation sparked some 26,000 responses from the industry – most of which were written with mince pies in hand over the winter break. However, this NPPF consultation was met by large resistance from the industry and time will tell if it will be abandoned completely. 

This time, continuing the holiday consultation theme, a number of wide-ranging consultations have been released just two days into the six-week school summer holiday. In the lead-up to this was a policy announcement speech from the Secretary of State that he hopes will signal a new chapter for our beleaguered house-building sector.   

These consultations relate to the changes to the planning system that are likely to come into effect with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), which is currently at the Reporting stage in the House of Lords, with Royal Assent likely before the end of the year. 


Changes to Permitted Development 

If you’re involved in the conversion of existing commercial or agricultural buildings via permitted development you should pay attention to this, in relation to Permitted Development Rights (PDR) the current consultations include:

  • A requirement for PD to address local Design Codes; 
  • A doubling of the current floor space restrictions for many types of PDR, including ‘Office to Residential’ (Class MA), and other classes that involve conversion of other uses to residential (including Class M, Class N, and Class Q);
  • The inclusion of hotels and boarding houses within Class MA; 
  • Removal of the current requirement for a commercial property to have been vacant for 3 months prior to conversion; 
  • Removal of the current restriction for PDRS in AONBs, National Parks, World Heritage Sites, and other areas currently subject to protection; 
  • The introduction of a two-year rolling requirement for conversion of existing uses, instead of the current requirement that an existing use was in place in March 2013; 
  • The introduction of a range of additional flexibility to allow for housing, and other rural employment uses, to be delivered within formerly agricultural - and other rural - uses; and 
  • A call for evidence on nature-based solutions for addressing nutrient pollution, flooding, and other matters.

Changes to Plan Making 

If you’re involved with the Strategic Land market, this one will interest you. In relation to Local Plan Making the current consultation outlines a range of details about how the current average duration of local plan making (7 years), will be reduced to just 30 months.  

Although much of this may seem a little abstract unless you’re already familiar with the process, there is some interesting information about the adoption of a ‘digital-first’ approach that will have a big impact on those of us looking for accurate and reliable information about planning policy and development allocations. 

The consultation also provides some more detail about a new process of ‘community land auctions’, which will aim to mitigate some of the ‘hope value’ in strategic land sales by allowing councils to take into account a proposed sale value of land at the point that it is allocated for development. 


Other Consultation Matters

The government has also released a consultation on Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects which aim to: deliver a faster consenting process, better recognise the role of local communities, and help with resourcing. Even if you’re not directly involved with NSIPs, this consultation could have an impact on you if your site is affected by one of these projects. 

Also released was the Consultation Outcome on planning performance, which confirms that:

  • Fees are going up for major and householder applications;
  • the ‘free go’ that you currently get within a year if you withdraw an application is being abolished;
  • The ‘planning guarantee’ is being tightened up;
  • Fees will not be ring-fenced to deliver better planning outcomes;  
  • Retrospective planning applications will be subject to a higher fee; and
  • Changes to performance monitoring are likely to be on the way.

We’ve been doing a fair bit of work on planning authority performance, including looking at determination periods across the country, the reality of which rarely match up to their reported statistics. It will only be a good thing if the reported statistics start to better reflect the reality currently being experienced by the industry. 


What can you expect from us?

We will shortly be updating our popular e-book on Permitted Development Rights and we’ll be hosting a new webinar on the subject on 10th August at 2 pm which you can sign up for here. 

We’re also planning a couple of roundtable discussions that will feed into a more formal joint consultation response on these important issues. If you’d like to take part in this and make your opinions know, please get in touch

Aside from this, we’d like to know how we can best support you to engage with the consultations. Feel free to get in touch with us directly and let us know if you need any specific support in preparing submissions to these consultations. We’ve also put together this short survey where you can let us know how you would like to engage with this. 

The PDR consultation runs until 25 September and the Local Plans Consultation runs until 18 October.