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Yet more changes to the planning system

30 April 2015

On 25 March, in one of his last ministerial acts of this Parliament, Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced a series of changes including new permitted development rights and rules on standards.

New permitted development rights

The following permitted development (PD) rights apply from 15 April 2015 such that, as a general rule, planning permission will not be required for:

  • the conversion of casinos or amusement arcades to dwelling-houses (C3);
  • the conversion of storage premises or distribution centres (B8) to dwelling-houses (C3);
  • the conversion of retail units (A1/A2), betting offices, pay day loan shops and casinos to restaurants/cafes (A3);
  • the conversion of retail premises (A1/A2) to assembly and leisure (D2); and
  • the installation of rooftop solar arrays of up to 1MW (representing a 20-fold increase from than that previously permitted).

Betting offices and pay day loan shops will be removed from the A2 use class and become sui generis but will continue to benefit from the permitted development rights to change to A1 and A2 uses and certain temporary changes of use for a period of up to two years.

PD rights for extensions to non-domestic premises including shops, offices and industrial buildings are made permanent. The temporary right for larger rear extensions to dwelling-houses is to be extended for a further three years to May 2019.

Other PD amendments include rights for shops to modify existing loading bays and erect 'click and collect' facilities, rights for temporary filming on commercial premises, new rights to replace plant and machinery on existing waste management sites and new rights for sewerage undertakers.

The controversial office to residential conversion right, currently set to expire on 30 May 2016, was not mentioned in these changes and is subject to further consideration.

Deemed discharge of conditions

A new procedure for the deemed discharge of conditions also took effect on 15 April 2015. Applicants may assume that certain planning conditions are deemed to be discharged if the local planning authority (LPA) fails to determine the application for detailed approval within the 8 week determination period or longer agreed period. Many types of conditions are excluded, including where development is subject to EIA.

The applicant must, however, serve the LPA with a "deemed discharge notice" specifying certain information including the date on which deemed approval will take effect, which must not be before the determination period expires and must be at least two weeks after receipt of the deemed discharge notice by the LPA (whichever is later). If the LPA has not given notice of its determination (whether approval or refusal) by the specified date then the condition is deemed to be discharged.

New guidance on s106 negotiations

National planning practice guidance has been updated to make it clear that negotiations on s106 agreements should be concluded within the statutory timescales for determining planning applications. It promotes the use of standardised clauses to minimise the need to draft agreements from scratch and proposes that parties should start discussions at the beginning of the application process. Few changes are anticipated in practice as a result of this guidance.

New standards

New streamlining measures for technical standards apply from 1 October 2015 including additional optional Building Regulations on water and access and a new national space standard. Emerging local plans, neighbourhood plans and supplementary planning documents should not impose additional local technical requirements for the construction and internal layout of new dwellings, including requirements to adhere to the Code for Sustainable Homes. Existing plan policies are expected to be updated accordingly.

Until 30 September 2015, planning permissions should not be granted requiring compliance with any technical housing standards save where LPAs have existing policies on access, internal space or water efficiency. Thereafter, compliance with the new optional national technical standards should only be required where there is a relevant current adopted Local Plan policy.

Other changes

Other changes to practice guidance now in place include restrictions as to when local parking limits should be imposed and confirmation that LPA assessments of housing need should not normally require updating for a full 12 months. 

This article was written by Sejal Patel, for more information please contact Sejal on +44 (0)20 7203 5134 or sejal.patel@crsblaw.com.