The ODPM has left observers astonished after it suddenly confirmed the details of its plans for 'design statements' in the planning process.
Planning and housing minister Yvette Cooper yesterday revealed details of the implementation of the reform which will see all major planning applications legally obliged to be accompanied by a design statement.
This statement is aimed at explaining how high-quality design and issues such as disabled access have been addressed in the
Civil servants claim that this will give local communities a greater understanding of what is proposed and what might eventually be built.
Cooper said: 'These reforms are about strengthening the role of design in the planning system, making sure planners take proper account of people's access needs, and strengthening town centres.
'High-quality design needs to be at the heart of the planning system.
'These changes mean that both developers and local planning
authorities will have to give proper consideration to design and
access before they start.
'This will help improve the quality of new buildings and spaces,' the minister added.
The raft of reforms also include two other major steps:
The minister plans to bring the addition of mezzanine levels to retail sheds under the control of the planning regime. Previously retailers could add the extra floor space without local authority consent.
There will be a change to the determination period for a major application from eight weeks to 13. This will increase the length of time applicants have to wait before they can appeal on basis of non-determination. by Ed Dorrell