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New planning guidance officially launched

Words: Laura Chubb
Nick Boles

The UK Department for Communities and Local Government has launched the finalised version of its new online National Planning Practice Guidance, which has been updated with a view to making the planning system easier to use.

Planning minister Nick Boles said the new guidance would allow "local communities to shape where development should and should not go".
He added: "Planning should not be the exclusive preserve of lawyers, developers or town hall officials."
The launch follows a review of planning guidance by Lord Taylor, chair of the National Housing Federation, in 2012. A test version of the website was made available in August of last year.
The confirmed reforms emphasise that green belt land should be prioritised over a local authority’s housing need.

"Planning should not be the exclusive preserve of lawyers, developers or town hall officials"

But the new guidance does allow change of use from shops and financial and professional services into homes without the need for planning permission, although this does not apply to land within National Parks and World Heritage Sites.
Barn conversions will also become easier. Up to 450 sq m of buildings for each farm can now be turned into a maximum of three houses. Boles said local authorities will need "a robust evidence base" to justify any decision not to permit change of use.
The Design Council, which advised the government on design elements of the new guidance, said it welcomed the reforms. But it added that the guidance would need to be updated "as and when necessary" from now on.
The council was particularly keen to point out that the guidance would need further reform after the government had responded to the Housing Standards Review. It said the government should do this "sooner rather than later to ensure that house builders are given sufficient support to deliver the homes that the UK needs, of the right quality, in the right places at the right time".
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has voiced concern that "allowing barn conversions without planning permission could do real damage" to the countryside.