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            Planning Update Planning and the Budget: Every little helps?...    A Budget focussed on planning is unusual but Ian Blacker, John Rowan & Partners’ Head of Planning Advisory Services, sees encouraging signs.

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Put aside the attention-grabbing return of Enterprise Zones and help with house deposits. The interesting announcements on Budget day can be found in the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (note the department) and the Treasury’s publication The Plan for Growth, a speech by Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark and a couple of less-heralded comments from the Chancellor. Whilst much detail is still to be revealed, it does seem that the Government has stopped bashing the planning system long enough to actually promote some pro-development changes. Crucially, there are counter-balances to the nimbyism of the Localism Bill (and clear conflicts with it - removing controls over development from the system that people at a local level may be keen to retain) and while it’s not going to repair housebuilding numbers overnight, it’s the most encouragement the development industry has received since this Government’s formation. The reinstatement of a presumption in favour of (sustainable) development is welcome. It will sit in the National Planning Framework as the starting point for the creation of plans at a local level (including Neighbourhood Plans). All that needs to be done now is for someone to define “sustainable development”. The scrapping of the target of 60% of new development to be on previously-developed land seems a clear indication of a greater preparedness by the Government to accept development on greenfield (but not green belt) sites. This is an unintended consequence of localism’s nimby tendency – many neighbourhoods will prefer to see greenfield sites away from their own homes developed for new houses and/or industry rather than the brownfield site next door. The Government has already removed minimum housing density requirements and restricted garden development. This confirms the trend: If the Government is serious about promoting development the only place left is greenfield (just don’t ask how this is “sustainable”). Councils are to be formally urged to renegotiate existing Section 106 Agreements where they make approved schemes unviable and will be expected to approve schemes where Local Plans are “absent, out of date, silent or indeterminate”. Authorities will be expected to “consider the range of likely economic, environmental and social benefits of proposals”. This is all helpful guidance, and will be used in applications and appeals to support new development proposals. There’s to be consultation on changes to the Use

Classes Order, including removing the need for planning permission to change from commercial (B Classes) to housing. This should further help opening up under-utilised land too long protected for (unviable) employment use. It’s also interesting to see the ability to create Neighbourhood Plans being extended to businesses. A business could, for example, promote a Plan including development of its own land (with plenty of planning benefits around it parks and extensions to schools) and win a simple  majority in a referendum on the Plan. The Local Authority then has to adopt the Plan and grant planning permission for development in accordance with it. A Neighbourhood Plan by Tesco anyone? For further information please contact Ian Blacker on or 0208 567 6995    

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For more information W: E: T: 0208 567 6995