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POLICY CHANGES

PLANNING

Last November the government issued the first of a number of consultation papers on changes foreshadowed in the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act.

1 Responses were published with the promise of implementation this summer.

It includes new powers to inhibit the use of repeat applications - those used to reduce opposition to schemes.

The powers are not intended to prevent the submission of a similar application altered in order to address objections to the previous application.

Respondents wanted greater clarity and guidance as to how to interpret the concepts of 'similar' applications and 'significant change'.

There was little comment on the proposal to delay the implementation of powers relating to 'twin-tracking'.

In Section 51 of the Act, there is a provision that planning permission and listed building and conservation area consents will normally be granted on condition that works begin within three years.

It makes corresponding changes to time periods in relation to outline planning permission and reserved matters. The provision also removes the ability to extend a planning permission or consent by an application to vary a condition.

The removal of this power would require that a new application be judged against current planning considerations - should work not have started on the project within the time limit of the original permission.

This was supported by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), which stated: 'We consider it is right for local planning authorities to be able to consider the principle of a permission in all its respects and should not be hamstrung from doing this by what is really a device that was never intended to be used in this way.' However, other respondents disagreed. One stated: 'This proviso is often relied upon by developers in the development process as flexibility if further time is needed to assemble land or finances? (The proposed) revision is solely a tool to force developers to commence development. Many sites will be left in a poorer state than if the developer had not been forced to commence.' There was concern that there is insufficient guidance in Section 56 of the TCPA for councils as to what 'starting' means. The House Builders Federation fears a 'severe impact to the development industry'. It argued that:

'[The proposal would remove] the long-term certainty of the acceptability of the established land use on the site and the ability to borrow money against that asset. Without this, the ability for developers to borrow money against land and thus the funding of the majority of the development industry will be lost.' The new Act says there must be a speedier submission of information necessary for a planning application to be determined. A statutory consultee - for consultation specified in the General Development Procedure Order - must respond within 21 days.

A further paper was issued in March, which covers:

? local development orders;

? outline planning permission, reserved matters and design and access statements;

? electronic payment of planning fees;

? decision periods for major applications; and - validity.

The consultation period has just closed. The revised guidelines will be released in a few months.

Brian Waters is principal of the Boisot Waters Cohen Partnership.

Visit www. bwcp. co. uk

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