National Policy Updates
At the end of June, our prime minister none the worse for his Covid19 ordeal made a speech signposting significant future changes proposed for the planning system.
In his speech saying he wanted the UK to “build, build, build” during the recovery from COVID-19 to boost the economy and the construction industry, he also announced new planning rules and the easing of restrictions for certain change of use applications with a revised Use Class Order.
Proposed to come into effect across England by September, the changes will mean an increase in the types of commercial properties which can be changed into residential dwellings, and being able to demolish empty and unneeded buildings, if they are being replaced by residential dwellings.
Additionally, an update to the Town and Country Planning Regulations 2020 confirms that from 1 August new permitted development rights will be granted for self-contained flats built on top of certain existing, purpose-built blocks of flats. The upwards extensions rule will need to meet certain criteria and will be subject to prior approval - a formal submission to a local planning authority - to seek confirmation that specified parts of any given development are acceptable before work can commence. Planning permission will be restricted to buildings of three storeys or more in height, and the extended building must not be more than 30 metres in total height.
Other actions pledged to assist the economy and the construction industry include an extension of time to implement existing planning consents. Planning permission expires after three years if work has not started on-site, but under a newly announced interim measure, sites with permission that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown (23 March) and the end of this year will now have that consent extended to 1 April 2021. The legislation is unusual in that it has retrospective effect and it will ensure that some expired consents will be resurrected.
The Government also announced a planning Policy Paper for July to look into ‘modernising the planning system’, and a Local Recovery White Paper expected later in the year will outline other ways to help boost the economy and establish wider de-regulatory improvements. We will report on these in more detail next time.