Sections 104 to 106 of the Housing Bill contain amendments to the 1990 Act that relate to the prior approval process for permitted development, the designation of local planning authorities, and the publication of any financial benefits to be obtained by authorities from development.
Permitted development rights
The government announced in October its intention to introduce permitted development rights for the demolition of office blocks and construction of houses, which we would expect to be subject to a comprehensive prior approval process (similar to that applying for changes of use). Currently, where operational development is to be carried out using permitted development rights, the local authority’s prior approval can be required only in relation to matters of design and external appearance. Section 104 of the Housing Bill therefore expands the scope of the prior approval process for operational development, thereby paving the way for much more substantial development to be permitted under the permitted development regime.
Designation of local planning authorities
As part of the government’s drive to speed up the planning process, section 105 of the Housing Bill would broaden both the circumstances in which a local authority may be designated and the consequences of designation. Under the current rules, a local authority may be designated only in relation to applications for major development. Section 105 would enable designation of local planning authorities based on their performance in determining categories of planning applications (to be specified in regulations), which may include those for non-major development. Once an authority is designated, section 105 would enable the specified categories of applications to be made directly to the Secretary of State, although regulations may provide that a designated authority should still determine certain types of applications.
Determination of planning applications
Section 106 of the Bill seeks to increase transparency in the determination of planning applications. It provides that planning officers’ reports to committee must contain information about the financial benefits of proposed development, which would accrue to the authority or certain third parties. The benefits to be reported include governmental grants and CIL receipts, and the officer’s report would need to state whether the officer considers each benefit to be material. Regulations may limit the financial benefits to be reported by reference to value, and different provisions may apply to different kinds of local planning authorities or types of development.