Planning Legislation

News - 12/07/2021

Changes to Planning Legislation and Guidance July 2021

A selection of minor amendments to various parts of the planning system are starting to come in thick and fast, albeit not yet the wholesale review as promised in the Planning White Paper.

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In a month where Robert Jenerick gave a seemingly impassioned, but slightly confusing, speech at the Local Government Association’s annual conference, a selection of minor amendments to various parts of the planning system are starting to come in thick and fast, albeit not yet the wholesale review as promised in the Planning White Paper.

Jenerick suggested that the Government are not intending to “rip up the planning system and start again” despite with wide expectation that MGCLG are looking to press forward with wide ranging planning reforms that are proposed within the Planning White Paper. 

Last month, our Planning and Regeneration team produced a summary of the Housing, Communities & Local Government Committee’s response to the White Paper for Revo, which recommended a reconsideration of the zonal-style approach to planning, a re-think of proposed approaches to securing developer contributions, and a strategic review of the Green Belt. If you are interested in reading up on this in more detail, we have provided a snapshot of the responses here.

Nevertheless, and putting the chatter to one side, we look at four changes recently announced in the planning system that may not make headlines, but will be a consideration for anybody with property or land interests in England.  

Article 4 Directions - a higher threshold

Article 4 directions are a tool used by Council’s to remove national permitted development rights, if warranted and supported by robust evidence. A recent ministerial statement confirms that changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will come in later this year to encourage the use of Article 4 Directions in a “highly targeted way” to protect core, historic high street areas whilst not restricting the ability for much needed housing to be delivered. The new policy will apply to all Article 4 Directions.

The new Paragraph 53 of the NPPF will read:

  • where they relate to change from non-residential use to residential use, be limited to situations where an Article 4 direction is necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts (this could include the loss of the essential core of a primary shopping area which would seriously undermine its vitality and viability, but would be very unlikely to extend to the whole of a town centre)
  • in other cases, be limited to situations where an Article 4 direction is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of Article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities)
  • in all cases, be based on robust evidence, and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.

This differs to the current wording, which broadly just states that Article 4 Directions “should be limited to situations where this is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area”.

It is clear that the change of wording is aimed at targeting certain areas, for example historic high streets or primary shopping areas, but also caveats that it should not be used over a whole town centre or Local Authority areas. This means Local Planning Authorities will need to be very careful in where Article 4 Directions are used, that they are necessary and there is a strong evidence base to underpin them, which we can also help with.

Biodiversity metric - how it should be used

The Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs announced a Biodiversity Metric this month which sets out when and how to use the biodiversity metric to assess the value of a project or development to wildlife. The biodiversity metric is a habitat based approach used to assess an area’s value to wildlife and will have implications through the planning system.

Ecologists, developers, planning authorities and the community can use the metric to:

  • assess the biodiversity unit value of an area of land;
  • demonstrate biodiversity net gains or losses in a consistent way;
  • measure and account for direct impacts on biodiversity; and
  • compare proposals for a site - such as creating or enhancing habitat on-site or off-site.

Our team is currently working on a range of complex sites across England that require planning and land management decisions to ensure sites are best placed to accommodate development both in the short and long term. We have experience working side by side with ecologists, incorporating technical advice into planning strategies and effectively managing ecological and biodiversity issues on a strategic, site by site and a portfolio basis.  Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss your site proposals in more detail with us.

Planning Application Fees - PD and prior approval

As we have discussed previously, Class MA introduces a new permitted development right to allow for the change of use from Commercial, Business and Service use (Class E) to residential use (Class C3) along with a range of other new Permitted Development Rights. On the back of this, the Government have also announced draft fees, including:

  • Class AA (construction of additional storeys) - a fee of £96 for applications for prior approval
  • Class M (Commercial, Business and Service use (Class E) to residential use (Class C3)) - a fee for applications for prior approvals of £100 per new dwelling house
  • Class M Part 7 (development of existing schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and prisons) - a fee of £96 for applications for prior approvals only in relation [to] the development of university buildings.

The regulations must be debated by Parliament but we expect them to be brought in very quickly to compliment the changes from 1 August 2021.

Fire Safety Approval - Permitted Development

The new Building Safety Bill outlines that the Government intends to introduced a fire safety prior approval requirement for high rise schemes consented through Permitted Development Rights. Presently, there is no requirement for this but it would come in for buildings over 18m in height or 7 or more storeys. 

The Fire Safety Measures will come in for prior approval applications and professionals will be required to submit fire safety information relating to land use planning issues in a similar way to the planning process.



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