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Richard Hegarty Reviews The Proposed Reform Of The Uk Planning System

Nov 25, 2007
The Government announced earlier this year a radical shake up of the planning system in the White Paper 'Planning for a Sustainable Future'. The new system could replace over 8 different planning regimes and they hope will save over 1 billion within 10 years.

Commercial Property Partner, Richard Hegarty, says "The new reforms have recognized the need to distinguish between major scale projects and small domestic developments. There are four key aspects of the new framework that developers need to be aware of; national infrastructure, householders making home improvements, climate change and Town Center Planning Policy."

1 National Infrastructure

The reforms would establish a national policy framework set by ministers and parliament to consider the key infrastructure needs for the next 10-25 years. These would be reviewed by the Government every five years.

There will be a legal requirement for developers to consult with public and key parties. This will hopefully allow more interested parties to be involved in the decisions, but may mean increased timescales for developers.

There would also be an independent Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) consisting of leading experts. They will decide upon nationally significant infrastructure projects within nine months of examination. The IPC will replace the current public inquiry system. It will encourage 'open floor' debates where interested parties can be involved.

There has been much criticism over major scale projects being caught up in red tape, which prevent the UK developing as fast as other countries. An often cited example is that the Terminal 5 at Heathrow took more than seven years to get planning permission under seven different pieces of legislation.

2 Householders making home improvements

The reforms would make it easier for householders to make changes to their property. The need for planning permission where there is little or no impact upon the neighbors such as putting up extensions, conservatories, solar panels and turbines, would be abolished.

Local authorities will retain the right to restrict planning permission and have greater powers to deal with 'eyesore developments'.

A new fast track system will be introduced so that appeals will have to be lodged within eight weeks rather than the current six months. The time to handle these standard householder appeals will be reduced from sixteen weeks to eight.

3 Climate Change

The proposals highlight the Government's commitment for new developments to consider measures to reduce carbon emissions, and for all new houses to be carbon free by 2016.

They will develop a timetable with the construction industry to substantial reduce carbon emissions from commercial buildings within the next ten years.

4 Town Center Planning Policy

The importance of supporting the growth and development of town centers is highlighted as one of the main themes of the reforms. A new test will be introduced that will require Councils to scrutinize proposals for out of town shopping areas in order to protect the interests of the local shops.

Developers will have to prove that out of town proposals will not have a negative impact on high streets and small shops.

Richard Hegarty concludes, "It is important to note that in Scotland where planning rules did not require a needs test, there is a higher proportion of new development out of town than in England and Wales. Whilst the paper seems to encourage town centre development, it could actually result in more out of town development."
About the Author
Richard Hegarty Richard Hegarty founded the firm of Hegarty LLP in Peterborough 1974. Website www.hegarty.co.uk. Richard Can be contacted via email; richard.hegarty@hegarty.co.uk
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