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Ministers press ahead with pre-commencement conditions revamp and neighbourhood plan regime changes

Published: Thursday, 22nd December 2016

Government publishes responses on consultations aimed at strengthening the neighbourhood planning regime and improving the use of planning conditions…

The government has announced it will press ahead with controversial proposals to change the pre-commencement planning conditions regime in England. These changes are part of a package of measures on planning conditions previously consulted on. This move came as the administration also confirmed making a key modification to the neighbourhood planning regime.

This fleshes out provisions in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill currently under parliamentary scrutiny. The legislation will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 17 January 2017.

Ministers have decided that pre-commencement conditions can only be used with the agreement of the applicant. This clarifies existing best practice contained in the Planning Practice Guidance. The government has rejected the proposal of a dispute resolution service as an alternative.

If the local authority communicates to the applicant its intention to impose a pre-commencement condition, there will be a default period of ten working days for the applicant to agree.

The government has confirmed that six types of conditions will be prohibited by secondary legislation. These are:

  • Conditions which unreasonably impact on the deliverability of a development
  • Conditions which reserve outline application details
  • Conditions which require the development to be carried out in its entirety
  • Conditions which duplicate a requirement for compliance with other regulatory requirements – e.g. building regulations
  • Conditions requiring land to be given up
  • Positively worded conditions requiring payment of money or other consideration.

There are various exceptions and exemptions under these six headings. The government has decided not to extend this list of prohibited conditions, but will keep this matter under review.

The new-look neighbourhood planning regime will involve three changes:

  • Modifying designated neighbourhood areas where a neighbourhood plan has already been made in relation to that area
  • A requirement for local planning authorities to review their Statements of Community Involvement at regular intervals
  • Requirement for local planning authorities to publish their policies on the advice and assistance they will give to neighbourhood planning groups.

Ministers have insisted that the measures on conditions will not change the way they can be used to maintain existing protections for important matters such as heritage, the natural environment, green spaces and the mitigation of flooding.

The government has also stressed that the measures will not remove the ability of local authorities to make otherwise unacceptable development acceptable through the use of planning conditions which are necessary in order to achieve sustainable development and which meet the policy tests in the National Planning Policy Framework.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The new approach to pre-commencement conditions will embed the good practice of proactive and early engagement between parties, which will ensure that pre-commencement conditions meet the policy tests and ensure unnecessary or inappropriate pre commencement conditions are avoided, with commensurate time savings post permission.

“We anticipate that this process will reduce the workloads of authorities once permission has been granted by reducing the number of pre-commencement conditions that have to be discharged.”

Read the government’s response to the consultation on improving the use of planning conditions

Read the government’s response to the consultation on implementation of neighbourhood planning provisions

Roger Milne