Queen's speech 2014 - planning

How do the announcements in the Queen's speech propose to 'bolster investment in infrastructure and reform planning law to improve economic competitiveness'?

Original news

Queen's Speech 2014: Infrastructure Bill, LNB News 04/06/2014 105 The government has announced plans to introduce legislation to increase investment in infrastructure through long-term, stable funding and deliver more transparency and efficiency to the planning process. Provisions in the Infrastructure Bill will also transfer statutory responsibility for local land charges to charges register and delivery of local land charges searches to the Land Registry, and extend its powers to allow to information and register services relating to land and other property.

What are the planning-related purposes of the Bill?

The Bill aims to:

  • bolster investment in infrastructure by allowing stable long term funding, deliver better value for money and relieve unnecessary administrative burdens
  • increase transparency of information provision, and
  • improve planning processes by 'allowing us to get Britain building for our future and compete in the global race'

What planning benefits does it hope to achieve?

Key benefits hoped to be delivered by the Bill include:

  • directing funding to where it is most needed to deliver better economic outcomes, creating the right conditions for sustainable growth
  • creating jobs and improving economic competitiveness across areas of transport, energy provision, housing development and nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs)
  • speeding up the pace of delivery in key areas of infrastructure developments, while safeguarding the need for communities to be involved

 What are the key provisions?

Planning proposals in the Bill include:

Roads

  • turning the Highways Agency into a government-owned company, with 'stable, long term funding needed to plan ahead'
  • creating units within Passenger Focus and the Office of Rail Regulation to represent the interests of road users and to monitor the company's performance

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects

  • simplifying the process for making changes to Development Consent Orders (DCO) by speeding up non-material changes to a DCO, and allowing simplified processes for material changes
  • allowing the Examining Authority to be appointed immediately after an application has been accepted and for the panel to comprise two inspectors

 Deemed discharge for certain planning conditions

allowing certain types of planning conditions to be discharged upon application if a local planning authority has not notified the developer of their decision within a prescribed time period

Further flexibilities for change of use

  • further changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, SI 1995/418, Sch 2, Pt 3 to make it easier for 'empty and redundant buildings' to be converted into productive use, supporting brownfield regeneration and increase the supply of new homes

Public Sector Land Assets

  • permiting land to be transferred directly from arms-length bodies to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), reducing bureaucracy and managing land more effectively
  • ensuring that future purchasers of land owned by the HCA and the Greater London Authority will be able to develop and use land without being affected by easements and other rights and restrictions suspended by HCA

New homes built to a zero carbon standard

  • implementing a zero carbon standard for new homes from 2016
  • setting a minimum energy performance standard through the Building Regulations, with the remainder of the zero carbon target to be met through 'allowable solutions'--these are aimed to provide an 'optional, cost-effective and flexible means' for house builders to meet the zero carbon homes standard, as an alternative to increased on-site energy efficiency measures or renewable energy (such as solar panels)

Will the proposals speed up planning procedures for infrastructure projects?

The planning proposals in the speech have generally been welcomed by the industry. In particular, the streamlining of the NSIP process should simplify and speed-up the procedure for obtaining a DCO, save money for developers and the tax payer and help to get much-needed infrastructure projects up and running more quickly. The proposal to allow deemed discharge of planning conditions should also reduce unnecessary delay in the development procedure and save costs. However, there are some concerns in relation to the intended further flexibilities for the use of buildings. While economic growth and increased housing are unarguably priority objectives, these extended flexibilities could lead to unintended consequences, such as housing being built in inappropriate areas. Streamlining is a common theme of planning reform, and it is always going to be a difficult balance between speed and growth versus the interlinked social and environmental impacts.

This article was written by Jen Hawkins, planning solicitor in the Lexis®PSL Property and Environment teams and was first published in LexisPSL Property on 5 June 2014.  Click here for a free one week trial of Lexis®PSL Property.

Filed Under: Planning

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