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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Reaction

Words: Laura Edgar
New towns / iStock

Interested parties, including the RTPI, have responded to the government’s launch of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.

The bill includes measure on pre-commencement conditions, compulsory purchase and streamlining the planning system.

Compulsory purchase reform should go further


“We welcome the Neighbourhood Planning Bill including measures to simplify and speed up neighbourhood planning, the substantive package on compulsory purchase orders, simplified but effective pre-commencement conditions, and requirement to capture data on permitted development approvals. We will continue to work with the government to ensure this bill contributes to a simpler planning system that creates the certainty we need to develop well planned places.”

Stephen Wilkinson, RTPI vice-president

The institute supports the government in seeking to address the issue of conditions. However, the RTPI warned that “care should be taken to ensure there are no unintended consequences of change”.

The RTPI said it is pleased that the bill’s measures for compulsory purchase are “broadly in line” with its response (pdf) to the reform of the compulsory purchase system consultation.

The government, though, should be working towards a reform of compulsory purchase legislation that goes further and "allows local authorities to play a more proactive role in land assembly”.

The RTPI said: “This would necessitate land being acquired at close to existing use value, with an additional premium provided to compensate land owners. Releasing the consultation alongside the bill is an effective way of streamlining the process.”

More detailed response from the RTPI can be found on the RTPI website.

Measures to improve compulsory purchase important


Melanie Leech, chief executive, British Property Federation, said the measures to improve the compulsory purchase order system are “particularly important” as they will help to bring about infrastructure projects “more quickly and efficiently”, which, she said, is “crucial” to attracting inward investment and acting as a catalyst for regeneration schemes.

“Our industry is an important cornerstone of the economy, creating jobs, attracting investment, and delivering the homes and workplaces that are crucial to our everyday lives. The provisions laid out in the bill should go some way towards helping our industry continue to deliver these things, and we are pleased that it is now getting under way.”

Should include amendments to New Towns legislation


The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) welcomed the government’s commitment to solving the housing crisis, but said the bill could “do more to empower local councils to deliver healthy and affordable new places”.

Dr Hugh Ellis, interim chief executive, TCPA, said: “In the 2016 Budget, the government committed to updating the New Towns Act to provide fit-for-purpose legislation for delivering new communities. The [bill] could play a major role in addressing the nation’s housing crisis if it included the amendments to the New Towns legislation. Updating the legislation provides the opportunity to ensure a balance between robust citizen rights and creating powerful development corporations to deliver highly sustainable new communities.”

He said refreshing the New Towns Act would ensure that development corporations have transparent legal objective on sustainable development, climate change and social inclusion and enhance requirements for participation by the public in the design and deliver of new communities.

Sensible to put sale on hold


Richard Close, head of lease advisory, Daniel Watney LLP, said: “It makes sense for the government to put the Land Registry sell-off on hold - moving it into private hands would have threatened its impartiality while creating an immediate market monopoly.

“The Land Registry is successful, popular and trusted; privatising it would put that all at risk. It would have been an exercise in fixing something which wasn’t broken to start with. To extract best value from the organisation, the government could perhaps introduce a levy on property search engines which use its data as an alternative to flogging it outright."

Surprise NIC not mentioned


Martin Tett, housing spokesman, Local Government Association, said the organisation is pleased the government appears to have “listened to our concerns about privatising the Land Registry”.

However, Tett said: “We are surprised there is no mention of the National Infrastructure Commission. Councils see the establishment of a national body that will enable much more robust long-term strategic decision-making on the country’s infrastructure needs as a step in the right direction. We hope the Government remains fully committed to the need for such a body and one that recognises the vital role of local authorities in delivering infrastructure for a modern economy and all communities.”

He said planning conditions provide a “vital” role, enabling planning permissions to go ahead which would otherwise be refused or delayed while the details are worked out. They can also save developers time and money as they do not need to invest in detailed submissions until the principle of the development is granted.

Reforms to compulsory purchase could also “pave the way for councils to capture the value from increased land prices to invest in the vital infrastructure that boosts housebuilding and creates places that people want to live.”

Neighbourhood don’t often see the bigger picture


“The majority of Neighbourhood Plans to date have focused on stopping development rather than promoting it. Some councils think about the bigger picture, but at parish level there is the tendency to adopt a parochial view that resists development as much as possible,” James Bainbridge, head of planning and development, Carter Jonas, said:

He said neighbourhoods don’t often have the ability to see the bigger picture to deliver the scale of infrastructure that is required.

Bainbridge said that reducing the burden on developers to essential planning conditions will be a “positive step to accelerate the delivery of new homes, so it is to be applauded”.

There are many conditions that developers have to satisfy once they have obtained permission, that it is “significantly delaying the delivery of critical housing projects”, according to Bainbridge.

“For example, there was a site recently with 52 pre-commencement conditions that all had to be discharged before anyone could start building a house. In the worst case scenario, some sites are taking up to three years to get going, after it has been resolved that planning permission will be granted.”

Neighbourhood Planning Bill launched

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