To receive a presentation for discussion on the proposed Government reforms to the Planning System in England and its impact on Enfield.
The panel members received a presentation from Helen Murch (Head of Strategic Planning and Design) on the recent and proposed Government changes to the planning system. Copies of the slides are available on the website or from the Committee Secretary.
The following points were highlighted in the presentation:
1. There were three types of change under discussion: changes recently introduced, proposed changes to the current planning system and radical planning reform. Consultation on the planning changes ends on the 1 October 2020 and on the Planning White Paper on 29 October.
2. The recently introduced changes involved changes to the use classes and permitted development orders. They were part of the Government’s Build, Build, Build agenda to encourage more housing development.
3. These changes were subject to legal challenge by groups with climate change concerns.
4. If put into effect they would give developers greater freedom to create new homes, without needing planning permission, and to use vacant and redundant buildings to encourage high street revival.
5. The Government were reducing the current number of use classes considerably. This could have a significant impact in Enfield.
6. The changes to the general permitted development rights had been designed to support the Government’s economic renewal package and would create a new right for temporary use of land, a new natural light requirement for domestic homes and the right to add additional stories to existing buildings.
7. Conservation areas would not be subject to the permitted development rights.
8. Four changes were being proposed to the current system: these were changes to the local system for assessing housing need, support for helping people to buy their first homes, lifting small sites threshold for affordable housing, extension of the current permission in principle to major development.
9. These changes could be introduced very quickly, possibly by the end of the year.
10. The new Government Planning White Paper was consulting on radical reform, “to simplify, speed up and get rid of red tape, whilst enhancing the beauty and delivery of infrastructure development”.
11. It was a set of high-level ideas with little detail of how they would work, containing a series of options for reform, covering plan making, development management and development contributions.
12. Radical reform was unlikely to be introduced quickly, as it would require primary and secondary legislation.
13. The intention was that all planning law would be replaced and local plans simplified, shortened and rules based.
14. The key proposals included a controversial zoning approach dividing areas into growth, renewal and protected areas.
15. Development management and design codes would be set nationally rather than locally.
16. Methods of engagement would be mainly digital.
17. Community engagement would take place at the plan making, rather than the individual application stage.
18. A new test of soundness would be developed.
19. There would be sanctions for those authorities who failed to get the plan through all the key stages within 2.5 years. Plans can currently take up to 7 years or longer to be finalised.
20. There would be an automatic refund of planning application fees if applications were not considered on time. These costs would fall on the Council.
21. The community infrastructure levy and the S106 would be replaced.
22. Building targets would be set for 300,000 homes annually.
Comments and Questions
1. Members thanked Helen Murch for delivering the report.
2. In response to a question on sanctions, it was not clear what sanctions would be imposed, but they would be financial.
3. The digital engagement proposals assumed that everyone had a smart phone and could download data hungry applications. This would have implications for the IT capability of not only individuals, but also libraries which would need increased capacity.
4. The government were hoping that more people would want to engage at the local plan stage, but generally people were more interested in specific planning applications that directly affected them.
5. It was not clear how these changes would affect the role of councillors on the Planning Committee. The Planning Committee was only mentioned once in the whole report.
6. In areas which were zoned for growth, it would be assumed that planning permission would be granted automatically. In Enfield, reserved matters would come to planning committee, but this would not be so in every Council.
7. The proposals focus on the role of plan making, not specific planning applications. The bigger strategic issues would be decided at Cabinet or Council.
8. In future reports to the panel would be circulated earlier with the agenda.