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Warehouse to new house – Government proposals for a more flexible planning system
The Coalition Government has announced further significant proposals to speed up or bypass the planning process. A wide range of detailed reforms are floated in a consultation paper ‘Technical consultation on planning’ including:
Permitted Development Rights
The Government’s drive to ensure more developments are permitted without the need for full planning permission continues. Some of the options explored are:
A new permitted development right to allow light industrial buildings (B1(c)) and storage and distribution buildings (B8), which were in use at the time of the 2014 Budget, to change use to residential (C3) use
Enabling launderettes, amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs to change to residential use permanent subject to a test of significant loss of the most strategically important office accommodation 
Incorporating the majority of financial and professional services uses into a revised wider A1
Removal of the existing permitted development rights to the A2 use class
Enabling property in use for A1, A2 and some sui generis uses in use at the time of the Autumn Statement 2013, to change use to assembly and leisure (D2)
Rights for retailers to alter their premises to enable click and collect by erecting small buildings, and installing new loading bay doors and new loading ramps
Permanently retaining permitted development rights in respect of increased extensions to houses and business premises
Allowing shops to build internal mezzanine floors greater than 200 square metres
The introduction of restriction on planning authorities’ power to set maximum parking standards
Planning Conditions
The Government’s Infrastructure Bill enables the ‘deemed discharge’ of planning conditions. The Government is seeing views on how this ought to work in practice in cases where a local planning authority takes to long to make a decision. 
Views are invited on a new requirement for planning authorities to share proposed conditions with applicants prior to granting planning permission. The Government also suggests that local planning authorities ought to have to justify pre-commencement conditions in writing. 
Neighbourhood Planning
There are several changes in this area including:
A statutory time limit of 10 weeks within which a local planning authority must make a decision on whether to designate a neighbourhood area
Abolishing the current statutory requirement for a minimum of six weeks of consultation and publicity
A requirement to consult with landowners that may be affected by a site allocation in a neighbourhood plan.
The paper also seeks to input on changes to the thresholds for statutory consultation and Environment Impact Assessment thresholds.
Many of the proposed reforms will be welcomed by developers and land owners frustrated by the delays caused by protracted negotiations with local planning authorities. 
However, it is an open question as to whether the implementation will match the rhetoric. Some of the most radical changes, while very welcome, may add financial and resourcing pressure to overstretched planning departments. There is a risk that this could result in less effective development management and plan making. Responses to the consultation paper are invited by 26 September 2014. 
*Matt Gilks is a Planning Lawyer working for Dutton Gregory
Matt Gilks Blog


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