Keene – Planning and Infrastructure Briefing 12 September 2012

Reshuffle

Nick Boles is the new Planning Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as Greg Clark moves to the Treasury following the Government reshuffle. He made a major speech on planning to the Tory Reform Group earlier this year, which can be read here.

Chartered surveyor Mark Prisk MP is the new Housing Minister as Grant Shapps moves to become Conservative Party chairman. Mr Prisk is a chartered surveyor by profession, and a former self-employed businessman and company director.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill is returning to the backbenches while Bath Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster replaces Andrew Stunell at DCLG. Brandon Lewis and Baroness Warsi also join the department.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles retains the top job.

Caroline Spelman has been replaced by Owen Paterson as Environment Secretary; Patrick McLoughlin replaces Justine Greening as Transport Minister; and Energy Minister Charles Hendry has been replaced by John Hayes.

Planning changes announced

Thousands of big commercial and residential applications are to be directed to a major infrastructure fast track and where councils are poor at processing decisions developers can opt to have their decision taken by the Planning Inspectorate. More applications also will go into a fast track appeal process.

Moreover the categories for the regime for Major Infrastructure will be altered. Other commercial and business development categories will be introduced. Moreover, the Daily Mail suggests in an article on 23 August that housing would be included in the regime – taking power away from town halls. It is likely that there would be a threshold. It is understood that the size of the threshold is still being debated.

Awards of costs

As suggested in the NPPF the DCLG has said that it will push ahead on its work on allowing the Planning Inspectorate to award costs where a case has been handled in a way contrary to due process.

Permitted Development Rights

The Government has announced a consultation on changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 to extend the rights of homeowners and commercial property owners to develop their property.

The proposals which were given a great deal of political backing included:

  • Being allowed to extend a property at single-storey level eight, although other sources say six metres, from the current boundaries of the existing building.
  • This reduction in red tape would last up to three years.
  • It would also only apply in areas where there is no further development control protection applying.

New planning rights for without need for planning permission

New planning rights will allow more flats to be created above shops without the need for planning permission. Two flats will be allowed to be created in office or storage space under new permitted development rights coming into force.

It has also announced proposed measures to simplify the planning system further by making it easier to temporarily re-use some buildings without needing planning permission, streamlining the paper work needed for planning applications and speeding up planning appeal decisions.

Housebuilding boost

DCLG have announced a boost to housebuilders and developers through relaxation of the planning rules.

  • Removing restrictions on house builders to help unlock 75,000 homes currently stalled due to sites being commercially unviable. Developers who can prove that council’s costly affordable housing requirements make the project unviable will see them removed.
  • New legislation for Government guarantees of up to £40 billion worth of major infrastructure projects and up to £10 billion of new homes. The Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill will include guaranteeing the debt of Housing Associations and private sector developers.
  • Up to 15,000 affordable homes and bring 5,000 empty homes back into use using new capital funding of £300m and the infrastructure guarantee
  • An additional 5,000 homes built for rent at market rates in line with proposals outlined in Sir Adrian Montague’s report to Government on boosting the private rented sector
  • 16,500 first-time buyers helped with a £280m extension of the successful ‘FirstBuy’ scheme, which offers aspiring homeowners a much-needed deposit and a crucial first step on the housing ladder.

Major infrastructure projects

Funds will be available from 6 September from Infrastructure UK, the HM Treasury body focused on prioritising and enabling investment in UK infrastructure.

Around £40 billion of projects could qualify for the provision of guarantees. These projects could come from a range of sectors including transport, utilities, energy and communications. Eligible projects will be subject to charges, due diligence and as a minimum must meet five key criteria:

  • Nationally significant, as identified in the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan 2011. The Government will also consider other exceptional projects of national or economic significance on a case-by-case basis, such as university infrastructure;
  • Ready to start construction within 12 months from a guarantee being given and having obtained (or about to obtain) necessary planning and other required consents;
  • Financially credible, with equity finance committed and project sponsors willing to accept appropriate restructuring of the project to limit any risk to the taxpayer;
  • Dependent on a guarantee to proceed and not otherwise financeable within a reasonable timeframe; and
  • Good value to the taxpayer, assessed by HM Treasury to have acceptable credit quality, not present unacceptable fiscal or economic risks and to make a positive impact on economic growth.

These will likely not be subject to any further rules but assessed against criteria using the “Green Book”.

  • The Government will consider the most effective form of guarantee on a case-by-case basis using a robust assessment and approvals process.

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