Out-Law News 2 min. read

Government consults to streamline planning application process

Local planning authorities (LPAs) may be challenged on their information requirements for planning applications and the requirement for LPAs to state reasons for granting planning permission may be removed under new Government proposals. 

The proposals are set out in a consultation document (41-page / 275KB PDF) published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The DCLG said that the proposed measures would "remove unnecessary paperwork" from the planning application process.

The Government also proposes to remove the requirement to provide design and access statement with most minor applications, where statements "add little value to the design process but add significantly to the cost and complexity of preparing an application". It said that the requirement was an "unnecessary statutory burden".

The consultation has been launched following Government consultation last summer setting out proposals to streamline the information requirements for the planning application process. The consultation led to the adoption of an amending Development Management Procedure Order which will come into force on 31 January.

However, the Government said that the public response to the consultation highlighted that further action could be taken to improve the application process, such as streamlining the design and access requirements and amending the power LPAs have to require information to validate a planning application.

The proposed amendments to design and access requirements include to apply the requirement to applications for major developments and to remove the requirement to explain the specific design principles and concepts that have been applied to "amount", "layout", "scale", "landscaping" and "appearance".

The Government said that this would remove statutory burdens on applicants without compromising design and accessibility. It said that the measure would not affect an applicant's ability to explain and justify a particular design solution with reference to site-specific circumstances and local policy.

Currently, where an LPA refuses to validate a planning application on grounds of purportedly insufficient information, the only grounds for challenge is judicial review. The Government proposes to reinstate a right, which existed until 2009, to appeal against non-determination under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The Government said that the new procedure is considered necessary to address recent case law and to give a "clear legal status" to an application where there is a validation dispute between the local authority and the applicant.

It said that requirements for the applicant to justify why they consider the information is not necessary should ensure that appeals are only pursued in those circumstances where there is a "genuine impasse between the applicant and local authority", and after negotiation has been exhausted.

The document also proposes to remove the statutory requirement for LPAs to include on decision notices both a summary of reasons and a summary of the policies and proposals in its development plan which are relevant to the decision to grant planning permission.

The Government said that the existing requirement "adds little to the transparency of the process" and does not affect the quality of decision-taking, but that it does "add to the burdens on local planning authorities because it requires a degree of duplication and additional work".

It noted that the proposal will not affect the requirements to give full reason for each condition proposed and to provide full reason where an application is refused.

"We are determined to cut away unnecessary burdens and paperwork and provide a simpler, swifter planning system for all," said Planning Minister Nick Boles in a DCLG statement.

"The small changes we are proposing are another step in streamlining an application process that for too long has been weighed down by the need to provide irrelevant information and detail."

The consultation will close on 4 March.

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