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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Lords express concerns about planning conditions measures

Words: Laura Edgar
Planning / iStock-166225668

Members of the House of Lords have expressed both support for and concern about measures for pre-commencement planning conditions laid out in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, with some calling for more evidence to suggest they delay house building.

The calls were made during the second reading of the bill in the House of Lords.

The government hopes that the bill, which was launched in September 2016, will support more house building and provide more local say over development.

It seeks to speed up and strengthen the neighbourhood planning process by simplifying how plans can be revised as local circumstances changes.

The bill also includes measures that aim to ensure that planning conditions that require developers to take action before work starts are only used when strictly necessary, and in a way that makes sure heritage and environmental safeguards remain in place, by inserting a new section into the Town and Planning Country Act 1990.

An explanatory note released alongside the legislation states that planning permission can’t be granted “subject to a pre-commencement conditions without the written agreement of the applicant to the terms of the condition”.

Clause 12, which discusses pre-commencement planning conditions, was a key focus for the House while members scrutinised the bill.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth said a cause of the delay between planning permission and the start of construction is down to the use, “or misuse”, of pre-commencement planning conditions. He noted that the bill would ensure that pre-commencement planning conditions are used by local planning authorities only when agreed by the applicant.

Baroness Finn (Con) expressed support for clause 12 and its “robust measures”, stating that pre-commencement conditions are “unnecessarily restrictive and a major cause of delay”.

Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) disagreed with Baroness Finn, saying that she was not sure whether there “really is solid and independent evidence – not just evidence given by developers – that pre-commencement conditions slow down their delivery of housing development”.

She added that she would like more clarity on how the pre-commencement conditions process would operate.

London Councils, said Lord Kennedy, had made the point that there is “little robust evidence” to suggest that the current planning conditions systems has led to an undersupply of housing.

“It is not very sensible for the government to seek to address issues which are generally accepted as not being a problem while failing to address issues that are.”

He, as well as several other members including Baroness Parminter, asked for the government to set out in detail the evidence to suggest development is delayed by pre-commencement planning conditions.

Further to this, he said conditions speed things up by enabling planning permission to be secured without finalising the full details. Again, he referred to London Councils and the organisation's belief that the measure will put “considerable strain” on local planning authority resources.

Instead, he said, conditions have an important role in securing sustainable development that is “careful and considerate” of local communities

Lord Lansley (Con) said the House would need to look carefully at how pre-commencement conditions interact with the permission in principle route to planning approval.

“If they are not incorporated effectively into the permission in principle, we increase the risk that the pre-commencement planning conditions will all be incorporated into the so-called technical application,” he said.

“However, they will not be technical at all; they will be instrumental to the question of whether planning approval is granted.”

Baroness Parminter (LD) agreed that conditions should be “reasonable and necessary”. However, they should be seen as a “positive tool” to ensure that permission can be granted.

She said it is clear that the “ability of local planning authorities to apply pre-commencement conditions should be retained to ensure that development is environmentally and socially sustainable, particularly to protect residents and property from increased flood risk”.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn (Con) said there is a real concern that local planning authorities would not feel able to press for archaeological conditions under clause 12.

He asked the government for a “clear commitment on future guidance being positive about the importance of heritage and of the necessary conditions to protect it”.

The Lords are due to meet for the committee stage of the bill on 31 January, 2 February, 6 February and 8 February.

The full transcript of the session can be found here.

Read more about the Neighbourhood Planning Bill:

Neighbourhood Planning Bill launched

Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Reaction

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

Neighbourhood Planning Bill update

Amendments to Neighbourhood Planning Bill sought

Barwell clarifies policy on neighbourhood plans and lack of housing land

Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Barwell assures MPs new guidance addresses their concerns

RTPI publishes Neighbourhood Planning Bill brief

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