The Budget

There were a number of planning related announcements in this week’s Budget.

The most significant development for planning wasn’t so much what George Osbourne had to say necessarily, but the Ministerial Statement issued by Greg Clark after the Chancellor’s speech.  In it, Greg Clark has said the following:

– “Government’s clear expectation is that the answer to development and growth should wherever possible be ‘yes’, except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in national planning policy”

– “The Chancellor has today set out further detail on our commitment to introduce a strong presumption in favour of sustainable development in the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework”

– “To further ensure that development can go ahead, all local authorities should reconsider, at developers’ request, existing section 106 agreements that currently render schemes unviable, and where possible modify those obligations to allow development to proceed; provided this continues to ensure that the development remains acceptable in planning terms.”

and perhaps most importantly, “The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will take the principles in this statement into account when determining applications that come before him for decision. In particular he will attach significant weight to the need to secure economic growth and employment.”

This is a very clear instruction to Councils to deal with applications in manner suggested in the Budget even before the relevant changes are made to legislation to make the default answer ‘yes’.  We understand that draft details on changes to legislation in respect of this matter will be published in May 2011, and the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ is expected to underpin the National Planning Policy Framework (due to be published by April 2012).

In other matters, the Chancellor made it clear that the Government would be making it permitted development to change the use of commercial buildings to residential.  This is potentially a very big change that could allow a change from use classes B1, B2 and B8 to class C3 without the need for planning permission.  However, before this can happen there will need to be consultation, and we suspect it will get watered down somewhat.  We will keep you updated.

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