Planning law update

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Following the recent arrival of specialist planning solicitor, Abigail Walters, Buckles Solicitors can now provide local businesses with specialist planning advice. Here are Abigail’s thoughts on the latest planning issues relevant to local businesses.

A new Planning Court opened for business on the 7th April dedicated to fast track planning cases to reduce unnecessary and costly delays to UK construction projects. The remit of the Court extends to all planning and environmental matters including challenges which relate to planning permission, highways, environmental legislation, planning policy documents and any other issues accepted by the Court. The new Court should reduce delays, that challenges to major development projects can cause, by speeding up the process and, by providing Judges with appropriate experience, may reduce the number of appeals.

Controversial changes were introduced last year allowing greater flexibility for changes of use without planning permission. These included permitting the change of use between B1a (offices) to residential uses, despite this being unpopular with local authorities and resulting in judicial review challenges. Further relaxations came into force on the 6th April 2014. These included allowing changes from both agricultural buildings and shops/financial services to residential uses, from shops to bank/building societies, permitting a raft of uses to change to childcare nurseries and allowing agricultural buildings to be used for nursery provision or state funded schools. These permitted rights are subject to certain restrictions and conditions and may require a prior approval application to be submitted to the local authority before they are implemented. The Governments intention to consult on even further flexibility for changes of use was announced in the 2014 budget.

The Government is also consulting on excluding developments of 10 units or less or a maximum combined floorspace of 1,000 sq meters gross floor space from affordable housing contributions imposed through sections 106 planning obligations, thus encouraging more small scale housing sites to come forward. Rural exception sites will be excluded to protect delivery of affordable housing in these areas.

Landowners and developers also want to keep an eye on the development of local plan policies in their area to ensure timely representations are made about the future use of sites in their ownership. This is the best way of ensuring that there is planning policy support for any developments proposed in the future. Plans in development now would have a lifetime until around 2035.

This article was first published in the Peterborough Telegraph in May 2014.