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Planning requirements cut for free schools

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New planning measures will allow free schools to open for a year in an existing building without the need for planning permission

The move is part of the governments’ pledge to remove red tape, ensuring that more schools can open faster. At present, the government claims, it can take schools up to a year to gain the required planning permission to open.

The new permitted development rights will also give free schools extra time to win the permanent planning permission required to remain in their buildings after the first year.

The changes will also make it easier for free schools to remain permanently in a wider range of existing buildings such as schools and offices.

Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles said: ‘It is vital that free schools can plan with confidence to be able to open at the start of the academic year and these new planning measures will provide that certainty for both schools and parents.’

Education Secretary Michael Gove added: ‘I want to make it as easy as possible for free school proposers not only to find buildings but move into them.

‘So I am delighted that we are cutting the red tape that delays free schools from securing a permanent home.

‘Enabling free schools to move into their preferred site more quickly will mean they can concentrate on raising standards and providing parents with an excellent school place for their child.’

Ian Pryce, chairman of the Bedford Free School Trust, said: ‘For most new free schools it is highly unlikely they will be able to identify appropriate sites that come with existing consent for school use.

‘So changes to planning rules that put the emphasis on planners having to give strong reasons why a building is not appropriate for a school will really help free schools’.

These changes will come into effect in June.

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