Skip to content

Weekly planning news

Planning news - 10 July 2024

Professional codes and standards for Building Control Bodies

On 7 July, the government published updated operational standards and professional conduct rules for building control bodies. The Building Safety Regulator, run by Health and Safety England, is responsible for overseeing both registered building control approvers and local authority building control. 

The operational standard rules1 define how the relevant parties should plan and deliver their building control functions, including enforcement. While the monitoring demonstrates how building control bodies must report and evidence their work. 

On the same day, the government released the building inspector competence framework. The guidance defines the building inspector classes, prescribing what roles and functions a building inspector can complete. The full framework is available here. 2

Building control applications can be submitted through our combined portal straight to local authorities, visit our website for more details.

Planning Portal react to ‘Get Britain building again’

In Rachel Reeves’s first speech as chancellor, she announced compulsory housebuilding targets, an ‘overhaul’ of planning restrictions and the end of the effective ban on onshore wind farms in England to speed up national infrastructure development. 

Planning Portal recently launched our Market Index which found that more than a million homes granted planning permission since 2015 have not yet been built, equating to around a third of the total given the green light over the period. These figures raise questions about the approach championed by all major parties in the run up to the election - that tweaking the planning system is the answer to boosting housebuilding. 

At the same time, planning applications over the first five months of 2024 are at their lowest level since 2020, making it seem less certain that housebuilding numbers will recover significantly enough in the coming years to meet ambitious manifesto targets at all.

We welcome the Labour Chancellor’s emphasis on housebuilding. Geoff Keal, CEO of TerraQuest says “As such, the new government must not only look at reforms to the planning system, but also address the wider factors that have stopped new homes from being built, including skills shortages, the rising cost of materials and high interest rates.” 

We spoke to our expert planner Craig Waite, to understand how the new government's proposals impact our sector: 

Increase in the number of Planners 

Labour's manifesto commits to adding 300 new planning officers over the course of the parliamentary term. While this is a positive step, it translates to fewer than one new officer per council. As a result, 300 new officers may not be sufficient to significantly impact the high volume of planning applications that many Local Authorities are currently managing.  

Our experts on policy recommend that we continue to enhance digitisation and improve efficiencies in back-office planning administration. Additionally, the need for cost-effective outsourcing will remain essential. 

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 

The Labour Govt will amend the NPPF with the updated draft version expected to be published by the end of this month (July). The requirements for consultation mean that the changes will likely take between 6 and 12 months to come into effect. 

Housing Targets 

A key change to the NPPF will be the reinstatement of mandatory housing targets. The Conservative Government had previously made these targets advisory, but reversing this decision will place additional pressure on Local Authorities to ensure that houses are being constructed at the required rate. 

In areas where this is not occurring and a five-year housing land supply cannot be demonstrated, the tilted balance will be applied. This approach favours development and will result in more permissions being granted for residential dwellings. 

Planning Portal will be reporting on this in future Market Index reports

Grey Belt 

Labour’s introduction of the ‘Grey Belt’ requires strict definitions. Care must be taken to ensure that Green Belt land is not unjustifiably reclassified and developed. This change in land designation from Green Belt to Grey Belt will however increase the available land supply for new housing developments, which is welcomed – this policy is expected to create opportunities for the development of hundreds of thousands of new homes. 

On Shore Wind Farms 

 With the removal of the footnotes to the National Planning Policy Framework (that restricted onshore wind energy development) and the commitment to put onshore wind on the same footing as other energy development, Labour seem to be showing a strong start in achieving their commitment to double onshore wind energy by 2030.  

Supreme court find Environmental Impact Assessment on oil project should have considered long-term emissions 

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court, which found that an oil extraction project was unlawfully granted planning permission since it failed to take into account the long-term, ‘downstream’ emissions associated with the development, is likely to impact decisions around oil and gas developments into the future. 

According to an article published in Planning Resource last Thursday3, ‘legal experts agree the judgement has significant implications for both fossil fuel and infrastructure proposals across the UK – and perhaps even housing’ since long-term emissions will now have to be accounted for.  

The High Court initially dismissed Sarah Finch’s attempt to seek judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission for an ‘expansion of oil drilling operations near Gatwick’. Her appeal was again rejected by the Court of Appeal by a ‘2-1 majority’. 

In August 2022, the Supreme Court granted permission for the appeal and in a landmark ruling in June of this year – that environmental campaigners have called a ‘huge win for the climate’ - found that the original decision to grant planning permission was ‘unlawful and must be quashed’. 

They announced that the Environmental Impact Assessment associated with the development should have included the impact of ‘indirect greenhouse emissions’, which it did not: 

“The council’s decision to grant planning permission for this project to extract petroleum was unlawful because (i) the EIA for the project failed to assess the effect on climate of the combustion of the oil to be produced, and (ii) the reasons for disregarding this effect were flawed.” 

You can find a more detailed breakdown of the appeal by visiting Planning Resource. 4

Planning Portal are passionate about helping you to support and protect our natural environment. We’re empowering all our stakeholders to make more sustainable decisions, by breaking down the complex sustainability legislation and funding opportunities into simple explainers, supplemented with easy-to-follow project advice, and hosting it all in one place – our Sustainability Hub. Visit today to find out more. 5  

RTPI President responds to Times piece on planning ‘corruption’ 

Lindsey Richards FRTPI, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)6, has rebutted recent criticism of the planning profession following an article published in The Times, authored by Rohan Silva7. In his piece, titled "Our corrupt planning system needs rebuilding," Silva described the planning system and its professionals in a negative light, sparking a response from the RTPI. 

Richards took to LinkedIn8 to highlight her concerns, asserting that Silva's depiction of planners and the planning system in the Times piece is both unjust and inaccurate. She stated "as the professional body representing the vast majority of planners across the country, we do not recognise his characterisation of the profession". 

Richards clarified that planning officers play a crucial role in informing decisions made by politicians and scrutinising applications based on policies set by their councils and the national government.  

Highlighting the challenges faced by the planning sector, Richards pointed to ‘chronic underfunding of planning services, stagnant wages, and the politicisation of the planning system’ as significant issues driving more planners to the private sector. "There is good reason to believe that these factors, rather than ‘sleaze’, are responsible for the shift," she noted. 

Richards emphasised the dedication of public sector planners, asserting that those who remain in public service are committed to the common good. RTPI members adhere to a strict code of professional conduct, upholding the highest ethical standards in their work. 

In a positive nod to the new government, Richards noted that the new chancellor has identified planning as a cornerstone for economic growth. "Our members stand ready to deliver on this mission within systems that are set by the government of the day," she affirmed. 

The RTPI continues to support its members and advocate for the planning profession, aiming to address the challenges and misconceptions like those highlighted by Silva's Times critique. 

High court dismiss challenge to gov decision on council energy efficiency targets for new homes

Just before the general election, the High Court dismissed a legal challenge originally launched by two campaign groups9 hoping to quash a ministerial statement, which effectively restricted councils from setting more ambitious efficiency targets for housebuilders which went beyond national standards. 

You can read the full ministerial statement here10, which was originally published in December 2023.  

The challenge claimed that the statement failed to take into account ‘key principles introduced by the Environment Act’. 

The challenge was bought on three grounds, and dismissed by the High Court on all three. 

Of the first ground, Justice Lieven said that the policy ‘does not disclose any error of law’ and ‘experts might disagree on the issue, but that is a matter for policy makers and not the court.’ 

You can read a more detailed breakdown of the challenge and the High Court’s ruling by visiting Planning Resource. 11

The Good Law Project have said they intend to appeal.   

‘Rights: Community: Action said: “This case confirms that the government does think it is right for local authorities to ‘go further and faster’ than building regulations.’


Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

RTPI logo The Planner logo

    Planning news - 10 July 2024

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.