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Weekly planning news

Planning news - 25 April 2024

Planning Portal news post header for 25 April 2024

Key industry figures respond to Labour’s ‘grey belt’ plans

Labour have set out their intentions for housebuilding, in anticipation of a general election later this year, highlighting their ambitions to build on brownfield land as a priority, whilst also freeing up areas of the greenbelt for development. 

In a campaign statement published on their website on 19 April,1 they claimed that some land currently designated as the green belt will need to be developed on in order to meet housing demand. 

They refer to this land as the ‘grey belt’ and define it as poorly maintained areas of the green belt, such as disused, concreated carparks. They believe this land represents great opportunity for crucial development but is currently being ‘wasted’. 

On 22 April, The Planner published responses to the proposals from some key industry stakeholders, including Victoria Hills of the Royal Town Planning Institute, which generally acknowledge the severity of the national housing shortage, whilst expressing desire to see clear definitions and in-depth planning around any revaluation of current green belt policy, with calls for caution to ensure effective implementation which wouldn’t compromise environmental or community interests.  

You can read the full article, including these reactions, on The Planner’s website.2 

Planning enforcement provisions tightened, with action window extended and appeals grounds changed

A uniform ten-year time allowance for planning enforcement actions has come into effect today (25 April 2024). 

This provision, originally set out in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 20233, gives a new timeframe for authorities to act against breaches of planning regulations, extending the window from four years to ten and potentially affecting a broader range of developments. 

The Act also introduces ‘Enforcement Warning Notices’ which will allow authorities to proactively address violations, notifying applicants of breaches and offering opportunity to regularise developments, prior to enforcement.

Furthermore, the new regulations lessen the grounds for appeal against enforcement, placing tighter restrictions particularly in instances where planning permission was sought retrospectively.

It is hoped that the Act will streamline enforcement processes and provide a clearer framework for addressing violations.  

In any case, the updates underscore the importance of adhering to national planning regulations and reinforce the consequences of non-compliance. 

You can find out more about planning enforcement by visiting the Government’s website.4 

The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill has been passed by Welsh parliament, the key purpose of which is to simplify and streamline consenting processes for Significant Infrastructure Projects in Wales. 

The bill, which was initially bough before Welsh parliament in June last year, sets out to ‘replace, either fully or partially, a number of existing statutory regimes for the consenting of infrastructure projects and rationalise the number of authorisations required to construct and operate such developments’. 

It will do this by introducing a new category into the consenting process – ‘infrastructure consent’ – specifically for these kind of large scale, high impact projects. 

The sentiment that prompted these legislative changes is shared by UK government, who also recently published an action plan for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) consenting reform following consultation last year. As we reported on 11 April5, this new approach also aims to bring about this kind of infrastructure more quickly. 

With an increased awareness of the need for significant infrastructure to tackle social and environmental issues in a timely manner, and with ambitious national emission targets to hit, it’s not surprising to see governments legislating away potential approval roadblocks. 

You can read more about The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill on the Senedd Cymru Welsh Parliament Website6.  


Offshore wind farm extensions approved in Norfolk following ministerial statement

A Development Consent Order (DCO) for the extension of two Offshore windfarms has been granted by Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho, against initial recommendations from the Planning Inspectorate, The Planner has reported.  

The DCO was sought for the construction and operation of two offshore windfarm extension projects – the Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm Extension Project (SEP) and the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm Extension Project, both located off the coast of Norfolk. 

A ministerial statement on 9 January ‘reset’ the Planning Inspectorate’s original decision, for review on 17 April.  

The Planning Inspectorate had been satisfied that the proposals successfully demonstrated need, in line with the Overarching National Policy Statement for energy. The energy secretary concurred, acknowledging the project will deliver significant contributions to renewable energy targets.  

According to The Planner, the Energy Secretary generally agreed with the findings of the original examining body (Planning Inspectorate), ‘and the weight it ascribed in the overall planning balance in respect of a number of issues, including need (substantial positive weight); land use (moderate negative weight); Marine Mammals – minor negative weight; and socioeconomic effects (moderate positive weight).’ 

However, the Energy Secretary did not follow the authority’s recommendation to refuse the decision, stating in her decision letter that all Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects ‘will have some potentially adverse impacts’. She concluded that the project’s benefits outweighed potential adverse impacts and that the proposal meets the requirements of Habitats Regulations. 

The news comes as both England and Wales streamline consenting processes around Nationally Significant Infrastructure7, in a bid to help establish these substantial projects faster. 

Halfdan Brustad, the Vice President for UK Renewables at Equinor, the company which first submitted the application, told the Planner ‘We are delighted with the secretary of state’s decision to award consent, doubling the capacity of the existing projects, and clearing the way forward to significantly contribute to the UK’s offshore wind and net-zero targets by 2030.’ 

You can visit the Planning Inspectorate website to find the decision letter and all other documentation related to the development.8  

Local initiatives

Cambridge Science Park approved 

The scheme sees 343,000 square feet of green belt space designated to the Cambridge Discovery Campus, which aims to help the development of small to medium-sized companies.  

Will Heath of Bridgemere and Foundation Capital Ventures, who spearheaded the project, told The Planner that the park will help enterprises ‘working in some of Britain’s most exciting, high-potential industries’ to develop, contributing to ‘the future success of the life sciences sector in Cambridge’

The development will be comprised of ‘six detached, laboratory-enabled buildings’ and include a ‘30-acre country park’ and ‘an amenity and sports pavilion’ with outdoor sports fields to be shared with the local community. 

Holding order issued over Bastion House and former Museum of London redevelopment 

Micheal Gove has issued a Holding Direction on the proposals two days before they were due to be considered by the City of London Corporation Planning Applications-Sub Committee, The Planner has reported.  

The order meant that whilst the committee could consider the scheme, which would deliver ‘56,000 square metres of office space’ and accommodate ‘nearly 3,100 jobs’ they were not free to grant permission. 

The committee concluded that it would grant planning permission to the 140 and 150 London Wall sites, subject to the outcome of the holding direction. 

You can read the Planner’s full article by visiting their website.9 


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

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    Planning news - 25 April 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.