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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Building should start as soon as possible after permission granted

Words: Laura Edgar
The heart of planning / iStock

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has said that it is “crucial that shovels hit the ground as soon as possible” once planning permission is granted, if the housing deficit is to be tackled.

Speaking at the second reading of the Neighbourhood and Planning Bill, which was passed without a vote, the communities minister said that, “if we are to tackle the housing deficit, it is crucial that shovels hit the ground as soon as possible once permission has been granted for a development”.

The existence of too many pre-commencement conditions imposed by the local authority is a routine impediment to this happening, said Javid.

While acknowledging that they play a “vital role” that wouldn’t change, Javid said pre-commencement conditions should not be allowed to “become unreasonable barriers to building”.

“To tackle this, the bill reflects best practice by stopping pre-commencement conditions being imposed without the written agreement of the applicant. It will also create a power to restrict the use of certain other types of planning conditions that do not meet the well-established policy tests in the national planning policy framework.”

He assured MPs that developers will still have “clear obligations,” with the process ensuring that they will be held to them.

Permission in principle


Javid said there is a lack of data showing how many homes are created through permission in principle, which makes it “harder to build the right number of homes in the right areas”.

The bill will therefore create a requirement to record on the planning register certain applications made under permitted development rights. This aims to ensure the right facts are available, help communities to develop neighbourhood plans and help planning authorities and inspectors to make “informed, appropriate decisions,” according to Javid.

Land Registry sale called off


When announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this year, the bill included provision to enable privatisation of the Land Registry. But following its launch in September, the bill does not include this ambition, Javid claiming instead that the potential sale “will not form part of this bill, nor will it be introduced into the bill in any shape or form at a later date.”

Joined up thinking


Devolution deals have seen more combined authorities bringing forward strategic plans.

“I want to see more of this,” said Javid. “I want more joint planning, more tiers of government working together and, of course, more plans put in place. I want all areas to have one.

“Failing to put a plan in place creates uncertainty among communities, who are left with no idea of what will be built where, and it creates resentment when developments are eventually imposed through speculative applications.”

The communities secretary said he agreed with the “thrust of the local plans expert group’s recommendations in this area” and how the process for putting a plan in place needs to be “streamlined”.

“As the expert group set out, most of those changes can and should be made through national policy and guidance, rather than primary legislation. Should primary legislation be required, I will look to use this bill as the vehicle for it. If we do use the bill in that way, we will of course ensure that the House has sufficient time to consider the provisions.”

Bill does not go far enough


Acting shadow communities secretary Teresa Pearce said Labour was in favour of many measures in the bill, but that it cannot be “detached from the wider housing crisis”. The bill does not go far enough, said Pearce– “so much more” could be done to “encourage development and engage local residents in the process”.

Greater clarity is needed on the level and weight attributed to neighbourhood plans at every stage of their preparation, Pearce continued, highlighting the concern about the impact the measures in the bill will have on “already stretched local planning authorities”.

Former planner and Labour MP Helen Hayes, who sits on the Communities and Local Government select Committee, also expressed concern about a lack of local authority resource.

“Resources for local planning departments have been cut by 46 per cent in the past five years, and the British Property Federation—not councils themselves, but the private sector—identifies that this under-resourcing is the primary cause of problems in the planning system.”

Hayes hoped that a proposal she made during Housing and Planning Act debate –councils able to recover the full cost of development management services through fees – will be reconsidered.

Those who often stand to gain the most from what planning can deliver, like those in housing need, are those whose voices are not heard in debates about planning policy, said Hayes – “and that must change”.

The second reading can be found here.

Read more:

Neighbourhood Planning Bill launched

Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Reaction

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