The New EIA Regulations

Well the Government cut it fine but the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 were finally laid before Parliament on 19 April 2017 and will come into force on 16 May 2017, along with equivalent regulations in relation to infrastructure planning, water resourceselectricity works, marine works, and land drainage improvement works.
The regulations give effect in England to the EU’s Directive 2014/52/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, which was required to be brought into force by member states by that magic 16 May 2017 date. 
My 8.10.16 blog post summarises the main implications of the Directive and expresses some doubt as to whether the Government would meet the deadline. I’m glad that the deadline has been achieved, as inconsistency between EU and domestic requirements as to environmental impact assessment would have made a difficult area, already full of legal trip hazards, even more precarious to navigate.  
The new regulations apply to all EIA development projects unless before 16 May 2016:
– an environmental statement has been submitted;

– a request for a screening opinion or direction has been submitted (in which case the screening is carried out under the 2011 regulations but any EIA will be under the new regime); or

– a request for a scoping opinion or direction has been submitted. 

The changes introduced by the new Regulations are not unduly onerous (and have been flagged by way of the 2014 amending directive for some time now) but there is still a small window for those scheme promoters who would prefer to work to the previous 2011 Regulations. I can see that even small changes in required methodologies may give rise to complications on multi-stage projects where it would be easier, for consistency and to avoid re-doing work, for further environmental statements to continue to address the 2011 rather than 2017 requirements. 
So what are the changes? Colleagues have prepared a black-lined version for internal Town purposes that shows all of the changes as between the 2011 and 2017 versions, which has been invaluable in working through the detail. There has been a lot of tweaking and necessary updating but the main substantive changes are as follows:
Reg 4(2) – there are now express references to assessment needing to include effects on human health, biodiversity, land and climate. 
Reg 4(4) – significant effects to be assessed include “the expected significant effects arising from the vulnerability of the proposed development to major accidents or disasters that are relevant to that development”. 
Reg 4(5) – “The relevant local planning authority or the Secretary of State must ensure that they have, or have access as necessary to, sufficient expertise to examine the environmental statement”. 
Reg 6 – additional information is now required in requests for screening opinions.
Reg 6(6) – LPA can agree to extend response to screening opinion request beyond the current three weeks period to up to 90 days and can extend the period further in exceptional circumstances if it gives reasons and the date when the delayed determination is now expected. 
Reg 7(5) – equivalent extended deadlines for the Secretary of State in relation to requests for screening directions. 
Reg 18(4)(a) – an environmental statement “must be based on the most recent scoping opinion or direction issued (so far as the proposed development remains materially the same as the proposed development that was subject to that opinion or direction.” (Currently there is no requirement for an environmental statement to take on board all of conclusions of the scoping opinion or direction).  
Reg 18(4)(c) – an environmental statement must “be prepared, taking into account the results of any relevant UK environmental assessment, which are reasonably available to the person preparing the environmental statement, with a view to avoiding duplication of assessment”. 
Reg 18(5) – “In order to ensure the completeness and quality of the environmental statement— 
* (a)  the developer must ensure that the environmental statement is prepared by competent experts; and

* (b)  the environmental statement must be accompanied by a statement from the developer outlining the relevant expertise or qualifications of such experts.”

Reg 19(6) – EIA application must not be determined until at least 30 days (was previously 14 days) after copies of the environmental statement were served on consultation bodies.

Reg 20(2)(f) – the LPA must make the environmental statement available online for at least that 30 day period. 
Reg 26 – the decision maker must reach a “reasoned conclusion on the significant effects of the proposed development on the environment”, taking into account their examination of the environmental information submitted and, where appropriate the decision maker’s “own supplementary examination”, “integrate that conclusion into the decision” and “if planning permission or supplementary consent is to be granted, consider whether it is appropriate to impose monitoring measures”. 
Reg 26(4) – “In cases where no statutory timescale is in place the decision of the relevant authority or the Secretary of State, as the case may be, must be taken within a reasonable period of time, taking into account the nature and complexity of the proposed development, from the date on which the relevant authority or the Secretary of State has been provided with the environmental information”.
Reg 27 – where there has to be both an EIA and a Habitats Regulations assessment, the two must be co-ordinated. 
Reg 29 – where planning permission is granted for EIA development, the decision must set out the reasoned conclusion of the decision maker on the significant effects of the development on the environment, any conditions which relate to the likely significant effects of the development on the environment, any measures envisaged to avoid, prevent, reduce and, if possible, offset likely significant adverse effects on the environment and any monitoring measures considered appropriate. 
Reg 30(1)(b) – the consultation bodies are to be informed of the decision in respect of any EIA application. 
Reg 30(1)(d)(iii) – information must be available for public inspection as to the results of consultations undertaken and information gathered.
Reg 35 – “planning authorities in the exercise of their enforcement functions, must have regard to the need to secure compliance with the requirements and objectives of the Directive.”
Reg 64 – objectivity and bias:
“(1) Where an authority or the Secretary of State has a duty under these Regulations, they must perform that duty in an objective manner and so as not to find themselves in a situation giving rise to a conflict of interest. 
(2) Where an authority, or the Secretary of State, is bringing forward a proposal for development and that authority or the Secretary of State, as appropriate, will also be responsible for determining its own proposal, the relevant authority or the Secretary of State must make appropriate administrative arrangements to ensure that there is a functional separation, when performing any duty under these Regulations, between the persons bringing forward a proposal for development and the persons responsible for determining that proposal.”

Schedule 2 – the threshold for industrial estate development projects is reduced from 5 hectares to 0.5 hectares. 
Schedule 3, para 3 – more detail as to the types and characteristics of potential impacts to be taken into account in screening Schedule 2 development. 
Schedule 4, para 1 – more detail as to the necessary description of the development in an environmental statement. 
Schedule 4, para 2 – the environmental statement must include a “description of the reasonable alternatives (for example in terms of development design, technology, location, size and scale) studied by the developer, which are relevant to the proposed project and its specific characteristics, and an indication of the main reasons for selecting the chosen option, including a comparison of the environmental effects” (in place of the more lax “outline of the main alternatives studied by the applicant or appellant and an indication of the main reasons for the choice made, taking into account the environmental effects”). 
Schedule 4, para 3 – it must also include a “description of the relevant aspects of the current state of the environment (baseline scenario) and an outline of the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the development as far as natural changes from the baseline scenario can be assessed with reasonable effort on the basis of the availability of environmental information and scientific knowledge.”
Schedule 4, para 10 – it must also include a “reference list detailing the sources used for the descriptions and assessments included in the environmental statement”. 
The explanatory memorandum published with the regulations states that there “are around 500 – 600 environmental statements submitted each year in England through the planning system, representing about 0.1% of all planning applications. There are between 10 – 20 applications for a development consent order under the nationally significant infrastructure planning regime subject to EIA each year”. 
Much of the work of a planning lawyer these days to seek to ensure that environmental impact assessment processes are carried out in a legally correct manner so as not to lead to the unnecessary risk of legal challenge. The new regulations will do nothing to reduce that risk – indeed, particular care will need to be taken in relation to these new requirements. Red pens at the ready…
Simon Ricketts 29.4.17
Personal views, et cetera

(with special thanks to Town colleagues, Spencer Tewis-Allen and Rebecca Craig). 

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Make No Little Plans: The London Plan 

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency” (Daniel Burnham)
The current version of the London Plan is no little plan, but fails the “magic to stir blood” and “noble, logical diagram” tests. It runs to over 400 pages, which is surely ridiculous – particularly since it is legally constrained only to deal with “matters which are of strategic importance to Greater London”. (Whilst no replacement for a formal document, New London Architecture’s 2015 summary of the document in a four minute video fronted by Peter Murray shows how the key messages can be got across in a more accessible and rousing style).

We are expecting initial non-statutory public consultation this autumn into a review of the current plan, so as to reflect the policy priorities of our third London Mayor, Sadiq Khan. Following this initial process, there would then need to be two formal consultation stages (the first with the London Assembly and GLA bodies, the second with the public) before an examination in public into the submitted document, which the Mayor projects for summer 2018, and perhaps adoption (his fingers still crossed) in autumn 2019. So even on a best case the Mayor will not have an adopted plan until over three quarters of his way through his four year term of office. 
His predecessors had the same problem. It took Ken Livingstone four years from election in 2000 to have in place the first London Plan (which ran to an even more thudding 420 pages) and it took Boris Johnson three years from election in 2008 to have in place his 2011 Replacement London Plan, which, subject to three sets of alterations, remains the current plan, supplemented by no fewer than adopted 21 SPGs with two further SPGs currently in draft (Culture and Night Time Economy (April 2017); Affordable Housing & Viability (November 2016)). The extent of reliance on SPGs is no doubt partly down to the exclusion of non-strategic matters from the plan itself (although the SPGs cover a whole range of strategic matters) but as much as anything is probably down to pragmatism, given the slowness of the statutory process. 
Strange and dysfunctional system isn’t it? Particularly when one recalls that the inspector, Anthony Thickett, concluded his report dated 18 November 2014 into the Further Alterations to the London Plan as follows:
“57. The evidence before me strongly suggests that the existing London Plan strategy will not deliver sufficient homes to meet objectively assessed need. The Mayor has committed to a review of the London Plan in 2016 but I do not consider that London can afford to wait until then and recommend that a review commences as soon as the FALP is adopted in 2015 (IRC3). In my view, the Mayor needs to explore options beyond the existing philosophy of the London Plan. That may, in the absence of a wider regional strategy to assess the options for growth and to plan and co-ordinate that growth, include engaging local planning authorities beyond the GLA’s boundaries in discussions regarding the evolution of our capital city. “
There are urgent and important issues to be grappled with, with implications far beyond London postcodes. Why do we put up with such slow processes?
The London Plan, or “spatial development strategy” to give it its statutory title, is a strange and unwieldy beast and, as we await consultation on its new incarnation, let’s remind ourselves of some of the curiosities arising from its statutory basis in sections 334 to 341 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and the Town and Country Planning (London Spatial Development Strategy) Regulations 2000.
The legal structure for the plan arrived at in the 1999 Act was at the time largely novel. The plan superseded the then Government’s non-statutory regional planning guidance (specifically, RPG3, the then regional planning guidance for London) and the procedure set out for the adoption of this new strategic regional plan echoed in part the examination-in-public process for structure plans of the time. (My recollection from then was that the emphasis on “strategic” was to mark a contrast from the over-prescriptive and slow plan-making of the previous Greater London Council – nice try!). 
When the development plans system (over-engineered in the extreme) was created by virtue of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (which also introduced statutory regional spatial strategies for the rest of England), although the London Plan was not a “development plan document”, it was part of the statutory development plan alongside the boroughs’ development plan documents (ie core strategies etc). Under section 38(6) of the 2004 Act, planning applications therefore must be determined “in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise”. 
Increased powers were devolved to the Mayor, including, by way of the Mayor of London Order 2008, the ability to direct that he should be the local planning authority on a planning application of potential strategic importance and determine it himself. The plan’s policies are central to the call-in criteria in Article 7(1) of the Order, all of three of which must be met in order for the Mayor to be able to intervene:
“(a)  the development or any of the issues raised by the development to which the PSI application relates is of such a nature or scale that it would have a significant impact on the implementation of the spatial development strategy;

(b)  the development or any of the issues raised by the development to which the application relates has significant effects that are likely to affect more than one London Borough; and 


(c)  there are sound planning reasons for issuing a direction

The application of the criteria was tested in R (Spitalfields Historic Trust) v Mayor of London  (Gilbart J, 10 May 2016).

By way of the Localism Act 2011 the regional spatial strategies were abolished but the London Plan remained. The extent to which the London Plan was a development plan for the purposes of the new “duty to cooperate” that the 2011 Act introduced (by way of inserting a new section 33A into the 2004 Act) was left unclear. The plan also now sat not just above the boroughs’ individual local plans but also above potentially a tier of neighbourhood plans below those plans. 
When the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (haiku-like little plan, in contrast to the swathes of guidance it replaced) was published in March 2012, it cancelled the guidance there had been in Circular 1/2008 as to the contents of the London Plan. There is now very little direct guidance for the Mayor in the NPPF or indeed in subsequent Planning Practice Guidance.
These are some of the key legal elements of the London Plan process:
What it must contain
The plan’s functions are unique:
As well as the Mayor’s “general policies in respect of the development and use of land in Greater London” (section 334(3)), it must deal with any “general spatial development aspects” of the other strategies, policies and proposals that he is responsible for, whether or not they relate to the development or use of land (section 334(4)). These other strategies include transport, bio-diversity, waste, air quality, noise and culture. 
The plan “must deal only with matters which are of strategic importance to Greater London” (section 334(5)). The meaning of “strategic” was tested in R (Mayor of London) v First Secretary of State (Forbes J, 7 April 2008). The then Mayor had directed that Brent Council should refuse planning permission for a student housing scheme on design grounds. The developer appealed against the refusal and in allowing the appeal the Secretary of State awarded costs against the Mayor on the basis that he should not have intervened on grounds that were not of strategic importance. The Mayor challenged the award of costs but the court held that the Secretary of State had been entitled to reach that conclusion. 
Co-operation
There has been legal argument as to the extent to which the formal “duty to co-operate” (for what it’s worth) is engaged in relation to the London Plan. This occupied time at the examination of the 2012 examination of “revised early minor alterations” to the plan and the 2014 examination of further alterations. 
Inspector Geoff Salter in his report dated 19 June 2012 concluded that the duty did not formally apply:
“Section 110 of the Localism Act introduced a new section (33A) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 which imposes a duty on local planning authorities and other prescribed bodies to co-operate in a range of planning activities. The Mayor is a prescribed person for the purposes of the duty but the London Plan is in effect a regional strategy (RS), the preparation of which does not fall within the list of activities covered by the duty, such as preparation of Development Plan Documents (DPDs). Activities that can reasonably be described as preparing the way for activities such as DPD preparation fall within the duty. However, I do not agree with the South East Waste Planning Advisory Group and the East of England Waste Technical Advisory Body that the LP can be considered to meet this definition, since its production is an activity in its own right“. 
Whereas Inspector Anthony Thickett in his report dated 18 November 2014 appears to reach the opposite conclusion: 
“Section 33A(3) lists the activities to which the duty applies. The first activity is the preparation of development plan documents. The London Plan is part of the development plan for London but the Mayor points to Section 38(2) of the 2004 Act which defines the FALP as a spatial development strategy and not a development plan document. Section 33A(3)(d & e) apply the duty to any activities that can reasonably be considered to prepare the way for or support the preparation of development plan documents. The preparation of the FALP is an activity in its own right but it must, in my view, also prepare the way for and support the preparation of development plan documents.”
By the time of the most recent examination, into further minor alterations to housing and parking standards, inspector David Hogger’s report dated 15 December 2015 simply accepts the Mayor’s position that the duty does not formally apply, as set out in a procedural note submitted to him which contains the following passage:
“Although the duty applies to the Mayor in respect of other authorities’ plans, it is the Mayor’s view (upheld by Leading Counsel) that section 33A does not apply specifically to the activity of preparing or amending the London Plan. However, London Plan Policy 2.2 makes clear that the Mayor is strongly committed to working with authorities and agencies in the East and South East of England to secure sustainable development and the management of growth in the wider metropolitan area and to co-ordinate approaches to other strategic issues of common concern.” (paragraph 3.6)
The point may be a sterile one in part given that all three Inspectors found that in practice there had been sufficient co-operation in any event, in the context of specific duties in the 1999 Act for the Mayor to:

* consult on any alteration to or replacement of the spatial development strategy (the London Plan) with counties and districts adjoining London (section 335), and
* inform local planning authorities in the vicinity of London of his views concerning any matters of common interest relating to the planning or development of London or those areas (sections 339 and 348).

However, it is a point that needs urgently tidying up to avoid legal uncertainty in the context of the forthcoming plan. 

The previous Mayor established the Outer London Commission to consider how parts of outer London might better realise their economic potential. Given as well Anthony Thickett’s urging in his report of the need for a new approach given the pressures for housing, inter-relationships with surrounding areas outside London’s formal boundaries cannot be ignored. The Outer London Commission’s March 2016 report, Coordinating Strategic Policy And Infrastructure Investment Across The Wider South East, touches on the taboo subject of green belt review:

“3.24 […] a strategic review [of green belt boundaries] in London may raise legal issues. The NPPF is very clear that Green Belt reviews should be a local planning authority matter and the two London’s Mayors have so far accepted this. However, S30 of the GLA Act enables the Mayor to take action to further one or more of the authority’s principal purposes. Moreover, the London Plan is legally part of the Development Plan for any area of London and, more practically, the NPPF is clearly written with single tier planning authorities in mind. A case might well be constructed to justify Mayoral/strategic involvement in a review (he already addresses other issues to which the NPPF attributes responsibility to the local planning authority). A formal legal opinion on the admissibility of the Mayor leading a strategic review might inform this.”
No doubt, the new plan will duck the issue, but should it?
Relationship with the boroughs
Section 24(1)(b) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires borough plans to be in general conformity with the London Plan. 
The content of the plan is clearly of critical importance to the boroughs and the sensitivity is heightened given that the Mayor does not have to accept an inspector’s recommendations. Differing political priorities between the Mayor and boroughs can lead to tensions, as we saw in relation to the affordable rented housing policies in “revised early minor modifications” introduced by Boris Johnson. Nine boroughs challenged the policy which had been adopted in the face of recommendations from inspector Geoff Salter in his report dated 19 June 2012. They argued that the policy would unlawfully preclude them from imposing borough-wide caps on rent for affordable rented housing at lower than a London-wide default level of 80% of market value.
The dispute reached the High Court in London Borough of Islington (& 8 other London boroughs) v Mayor of London (Lang J, 25 March 2014). The court dismissed the challenge:
“28. In my view, the Claimants have failed to establish that the Defendant’s strategy is contrary to the NPPF. The NPPF is a national policy framed in terms of broad policy objectives. Detailed decisions on how those objectives can be best achieved have to be made at a regional and local level. The only reference to rent caps for affordable rented housing is in the definition of affordable rented housing, which provides that the rent must be “no more than 80% of the local market rent”. Paragraph 47 of the NPPF does not speak either for or against local rent caps. Nor does it prevent the Defendant from adopting a London-wide policy against rent caps with which local boroughs must comply. There are other ways in which the Claimants can and should “use their evidence base” to ensure their local plans meet “objectively assessed needs” for affordable housing…”
The future
So, a plan is to be adopted in 2019 with a two year preparation process, within which period the environmental and other implications of emerging policies will need to be thoroughly tested. How will it point London forward in a certain and confident way given the various current uncertainties over such issues as Brexit (given the particularly internationally-facing role that Greater London plays, a clear priority for Khan will be to avoid a hard Glexit, regardless of the consistency of any Brexit); Heathrow; Crossrail 2; the Bakerloo Line extension and other infrastructure proposals, and whatever emerges as the (new) Government’s air quality plan? But perhaps above all of these uncertainties remains the continued desperate need for increased housing, with affordability a key component. 

What a challenging prospect the Mayor and his team have ahead of them in appropriately directing boroughs and developers with clarity and precision, retaining the good, snipping out the unnecessary or counter-productive. Let’s hope that, in every respect save its length, this turns out to be no little plan. 
Simon Ricketts 23.4.17
Personal views, et cetera

Parliament, Purdah, Planning

The pre- general election “purdah” period starts at midnight tonight (21 April). What this means is set in Cabinet Office guidance published yesterday, 20 April.
The guidance says:

“During the election period, the Government retains its responsibility to govern, and Ministers remain in charge of their departments. Essential business must be carried on. However, it is customary for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any new action of a continuing or long term character. Decisions on matters of policy on which a new government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present government should be postponed until after the election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money

So don’t hold your breath for any decision letters to be issued. 
In relation to current consultation processes, the guidance says:

“If a consultation is on-going at the time this guidance comes into effect, it should continue as normal. However, departments should not take any steps during an election period that will compete with parliamentary candidates for the public’s attention. This effectively means a ban on publicity for those consultations that are still in process. 


As these restrictions may be detrimental to a consultation, departments are advised to decide on steps to make up for that deficiency while strictly observing the guidance. That can be done, for example, by: 


– prolonging the consultation period; and


– putting out extra publicity for the consultation after the election in order to revive interest (following consultation with any new Minister).

Some consultations, for instance those aimed solely at professional groups, and that carry no publicity will not have the impact of those where a very public and wide-ranging consultation is required. Departments need, therefore, to take into account the circumstances of each consultation.”

There are currently six DCLG consultation processes which are still open:

* Review of park homes legislation: call for evidence

* Running free: consultation on preserving the free use of public parks

* Banning letting agent fees paid by tenants

* 100% business rates retention: further consultation on the design of the reformed system

* Fixing our broken housing market: consultation

* Planning and affordable housing for Build to Rent

the last two of course being particularly important for us in the housing and planning sector. 

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on its draft Airports National Policy Statement in relation to the expansion of Heathrow and on reforming policy on the design and use of UK airspace.

Surely these consultation processes will all now be extended. Can any of them be said to be “aimed solely at professional groups”?
The Government faces an interesting dilemma in relation to its awaited consultation draft air quality plan. Garnham J had ordered on 21 November 2016 that the draft be published by 24 April 2017 following previous deadline breaches summarised in my 4.11.16 blog post. The announcement of the election and consequent purdah period does not automatically extend that deadline. Will we see a draft by the deadline or will ClientEarth be back before the court?
Notwithstanding purdah, Parliament will continue to sit until 2 May 2017. The outstanding Bills are:
• Bus Services Bill

• Children and Social Work Bill 

• Digital Economy Bill 

• Health Services Supplies Bill

• Higher Education and Research Bill 

• National Citizen Service Bill

• Pension Schemes Bill

• Technical and Further Education Bill

and of course the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which is at its final stages, with final consideration by the House of Lords on 25 April 2017 of amendments made by the Commons. Whilst technically there is therefore the time available before Parliament dissolves, the BBC website  has an interesting analysis of the practical constraints that there will be on Parliamentary time during this final period. My understanding is that public Bills cannot be held over and so the Bill would fall. 
Finally, as we wait for the parties’ manifestos and various pressure groups compose their letters to Santa, this is a collection of some of the commitments which some Town Legal colleagues would personally like to see (tongue in cheek – what votes in many of these one wonders?). We will be jotting up the scores once the manifestos are published but a more than a 10% convergence would be doing pretty well I suspect…
1. Revised NPPF as previously signalled, but with consultation on final wording.

2. Real sanctions for local planning authorities which continue to delay in preparing plans or which do not plan adequately to meet housing requirements. Statutory duty to make local plans every 10 years. 

3. Review of green belt boundaries in the south east should be obligatory at least every 20 years. Where there are no green belt boundaries fixed because there are no local plans in place , the Secretary of State should appoint PINS to lead a plan making exercise at the expense of the defaulting council with step in rights if the Council wants to come back into the fold.

4. Review of effectiveness of Localism Act 2011 procedures, including neighbourhood plan making.

5. No weakening of environmental protections via Great Repeal Bill.

6. Urgent conclusion to CIL review, with short-term remedial measures, including greater flexibility for local planning authorities and developers in relation to strategic sites.

7. Enabling urban extensions and new settlements of true scale (eg 10,000 to 15,000 homes plus associated infrastructure and development) to proceed by way of NSIP.

8. Introduction of duty to cooperate to apply as between the London Mayor and local planning authorities.

9. Reform of rights to light law to reflect modern realities.

10. Greater flexibility for local authorities to dispose of land for less than best consideration.

11. Require better coordinated forward planning with statutory undertakers and infrastructure providers.

12. General commitment to consultation and piloting prior to legislative changes in relation to planning.

13. Increased resourcing in relation to the planning system so as to achieve better quality, more consistent, more timely and more efficient outcomes.

14. High speed Broadband and electric car charging should be a standard requirement.

15. Clarity on approach to viability and review mechanisms.

16. A more stable system with no more changes for the next two years at least (save for these ones!)

Back to the day job…

Simon Ricketts 21 April 2017

Personal views, et cetera

Planners & Pubs

“…That is the best of Britain and it is part of our distinctive and unique contribution to Europe. Distinctive and unique as Britain will remain in Europe. Fifty years from now Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and – as George Orwell said – “old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist” and if we get our way – Shakespeare still read even in school. Britain will survive unamendable in all essentials.” (John Major, speech to Conservative Group for Europe, 2003)

The Government is determined that he is proved right about the warm beer at least: drinking establishments will have more protection against changes of use than almost any other use, once recent additions to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill come into effect. 

When the Bill returned to the Commons from the Lords on 28 March 2017, a Lords amendment that sought to remove permitted development rights from A4 uses (“public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments (but not night clubs)”) was replaced by Commons amendment 22A  :

“(1)    As soon as reasonably practicable after the coming into force of this section, the Secretary of State must make a development order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which:

 (a)    removes any planning permission which is granted by a development order for development consisting of a change in the use of any building or land in England from a use within Class A4 to a use of a kind specified in the order (subject to paragraph (c)),

(b)    removes any planning permission which is granted by a development order for a building operation consisting of the demolition of a building in England which is used, or was last used, for a purpose within Class A4 or for a purpose including use within that class, and

 (c)    grants planning permission for development consisting of a change in the use of a building in England and any land within its curtilage from a use within Class A4 to a mixed use consisting of a use within that Class and a use within Class A3.”

The Bill is likely to receive Royal Assent in late April/early May 2017 and, if the clause survives (there is a “ping pong” procedure on 26 April where the Lords decide whether to accept it), we will need to see how quickly (1) it comes into force and (2) the amended development order is made. The provisions will not affect development which is carried out pursuant to the current General Permitted Development Order before the amended development order comes into force. 

Whilst apparently supported by all parties and (of course) by CAMRA,  it is noteworthy that the provision (1) has been shoehorned into a Bill which covers unrelated matters and (2) has not been the subject of consultation – seldom a recipe for good legislation. 
This is yet another area where successive Governments have been constantly fiddling. 
Amendments to the Use Classes Order in 2005 split the old use class A3 into:
 — A3 Restaurants and cafés – For the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises – restaurants, snack bars and cafes

— A4 Drinking establishments – Public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments (but not night clubs)

This was primarily to prevent restaurants turning into drinking places rather than to provide any protection for pubs. Amendments to the General Permitted Development Order included a permitted development right to change from A4 to A3. 
The assets of community value regime introduced by the Localism Act 2011 has been used energetically in relation to pubs in particular, with over 850 pubs registered by 2015 (and much encouragement and cheerleading by Government) but, despite being time consuming for communities and authorities alike, was largely toothless until the changes introduced by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015  pursuant to which, in relation to any drinking establishment, the permitted development rights to change use to A1 or A2, or to demolish, do not apply if it is registered as an asset of community value. Even if it not registered, there is a prior approval requirement to serve as a check as to whether any nomination for registration has been received. 
The Carlton Terrace saga was a salutory lesson for owners and developers. Prior approval for demolition wasn’t obtained and by a 6 July 2016 decision letter  an inspector upheld Westminster City Council’s enforcement notice requiring the pub to be rebuilt. Isn’t it just genuinely “community” pubs, often with heritage value, such as the Carlton, that deserve particular protection?
More recently we have also seen increasingly widespread use by local planning authorities of Article 4 Directions to remove permitted development rights in relation to pubs (most recently for example Southwark Council, which resolved on 7 March 2017 to make a direction).
So what is the justification for further changes?
Gavin Barwell in a debate in the House of Commons on 28 March 2017 explained the Government’s proposed amendments to the Bill as follows:

“I wish to turn to permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of pubs, and to update the House on the steps we are taking in respect of the permitted development rights for the change of use from office to residential. First, I will speak to the Government amendment in respect of permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of pubs. Let me start by assuring hon. Members that we have listened to both Houses and to the support that Members have expressed for valued community pubs. They will see that we have accepted the principle of the amendment introduced into the Bill in the other place. Our amendments in lieu therefore set out the detail of how we will take that principle forward.



The amendment commits us to update the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 to remove the permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of drinking establishments, including pubs. In tabling the amendments in lieu, I reassure hon. Members that we have continued to engage through the passage of the Bill with interested Members and bodies, such as the Campaign for Real Ale and the British Beer and Pub Association. I can confirm that we will remove the permitted development rights to change to a restaurant or cafe, financial or professional service, or a shop. We will also remove the permitted development rights to change to an office for up to two years and to a school for a single academic year.



In making these changes, the Government are keen to avoid any potential unintended consequences. As such, we are clear that the best way to support pubs is to retain the A4 “drinking establishments” use class for pubs, wine bars and other types of bars. Doing so will allow pubs to innovate and intensify their use, for example by opening a pub garden or starting to provide live music, without facing a risk that this will be a change of use that requires a full planning application. Our intention in retaining the A4 use class is to allow pubs to develop within this use class without having to seek planning permission, thus avoiding unintended consequences, and unnecessary cost and bureaucracy. “




“The changes in respect of permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of pubs mean that in future a planning application will be required in all cases. This will also be the case for premises in mixed use, for example as a pub and a restaurant. This addresses the long-standing call that there should be local consideration and an opportunity for the community to comment on the future of their local pub. It is important that local planning authorities have relevant planning policies in place to support this decision taking. Once we have made the changes, the current provisions, which remove permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of pubs that are listed as assets of community value, are no longer necessary and will fall away.”



 “Importantly, we have listened to the points made about the need for pubs to be able to expand their food offer in order to meet changing market need and support their continued viability—the issue that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham is concerned about. Therefore, at the same time as getting rid of the permitted development rights that allow for demolition or change of use, we will introduce a new permitted development right to allow drinking establishments to extend their food offering so as to become a mixed A4 pub and A3 restaurant. The Government believe that this will ensure that pubs have nothing to fear when it comes to requiring planning permission or enforcement against the change of use where a pub is extending its food offer. This will give them vital additional flexibility.”
Of course the measure won’t just apply to “valued community pubs” but to all drinking establishments that fall within use class A4. Is that proportionate?

The proposal that there should be deemed permission to change from A4 to a mixed A3/A4 use has attracted some criticism. Whilst there does need to be flexibility to allow dining pub type operations, is there the risk of opening the door to uses which are actually A3, as a stepping stone to A1 or A2? The concern is overstated in my view but these use distinctions are increasingly difficult in practice. 
Indeed, for the bigger picture in relation to changing trends in drinking and eating, the House of Lords Select Committee report on the Licensing Act 2003 dated 4 April 2017 makes fascinating reading. Who knows when Parliament will have the time to set matters right but the report is a sustained attack on the 2003 licensing reforms and the abject failure of that legislation to achieve its objectives:
“During the passage of the Licensing Bill one of the much over-used expressions was that it was going to change the UK to a “café culture”, by which was meant the imagined Continental habit of modest and leisurely consumption of alcohol at any civilised hour, preferably in clement weather. The fact that this has not materialised seems to have come as no surprise to any of our witnesses, nor to us; it takes more than an Act of Parliament to change the habits of generations, and this country’s climate was never going to favour such a change. The café culture which has grown up takes a rather different form and is confined to town centres, where between 2011 and 2016 a fall of 2,000 in the number of bars, pubs and night clubs has been accompanied by an increase of 6,000 in the number of cafés, fast food outlets and restaurants.”
To what extent is the loss of drinking establishments down to our planning regime and how much is it down to consumer trends? Who is going to operate – and drink in – all of these protected pubs?
At the moment of course licensing is a separate world from planning (and from planners and planning lawyers). Woe betide the objector who raises an issue in the wrong forum. 
For those of us who may wonder from time to time whether the planning system is perhaps a little unpredictable, there are some real horror stories in the report as to the operation of local authority licensing committees. Indeed the Select Committee advocates that the present procedures be replaced by something much more aligned with our current planning system, with licensing committees merged with planning committees and appeals to planning inspectors:
“Previous committees of this House conducting scrutiny of statutes have found that the Act in question is basically satisfactory, but that its implementation is not. In the case of the Licensing Act our conclusion is that, while the implementation of the Act leaves a great deal to be desired, to a large extent this is caused by an inadequate statutory framework whose basic flaws have, if anything, been compounded by subsequent piecemeal amendments. A radical comprehensive overhaul is needed, and this is what our recommendations seek to achieve.”

“For five hundred years the licensing of persons and premises was the task of justices of the peace. Those who devised the new policy in 2000 thought, rightly, that this was not a task for the judiciary but for local administration. If they had looked to see how local authorities regulate the responsible use of land in other situations, they would have seen that the planning system, already well established and usually working efficiently, was well placed to take on this additional task. 

Instead the legislation established new licensing committees for each of 350 local authorities. The councillors sitting on these new committees, and the staff assisting them, had no experience of the complex new law they were administering. Our evidence shows that, while most members of licensing committees no doubt attempt to apply the law justly and fairly, too often standards fall short. Many councillors have insufficient training; all should undertake compulsory training. We were told of cases of clear inadequacies in fulfilling their functions, resulting in a haphazard decision-making process. 

The planning system has its detractors, but planning committees are well established, with better support from experienced staff. Our main recommendation is that there should be a trial merger of licensing committees with planning committees. To be clear, we are not recommending a merger of licensing law and planning law; we are suggesting that the councillors who sit on planning committees, using the same procedure and practice and with the same support as they already have, should deal with proceedings under the Licensing Act in the same way that they already deal with planning legislation. 

Appeals from decisions of licensing committees now go to the same magistrates who, until 2005, dealt with the applications. This not only defies logic; it leads to unsatisfactory results, as many of our witnesses have testified. Planning appeals go to inspectors who have the training for this, and for whom this is a full time job. We recommend that they should hear licensing appeals as well. ”

Trebles all round!

Simon Ricketts 13.4.17

Personal views, et cetera

Heffalump Traps: The Ashdown Forest Cases

The Ashdown Forest in East Sussex is unique. Lindblom LJ recently described it as follows:
“Ashdown Forest contains one of the largest continuous blocks of lowland heath in south-east England. The [Special Area of Conservation] which extends to about 2,700 hectares, comprises both Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix and European dry heaths. It is a “European site” under regulation 8 of the Habitats regulations. The [Special Protection Area] was designated mainly for the protection of two species of bird: the Nightjar and the Dartford Warbler, both included in Annex 1 of EU Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds, as amended. Ashdown Forest is also designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (“SSSI”), for its heaths, birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, including the Great Crested Newt.”

The Ashdown Forest was of course also the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh:

“Anyone who has read the stories knows the forest and doesn’t need me to describe it. Pooh’s Forest and Ashdown Forest are identical.” (Christopher Milne)


This honeypot is particularly vulnerable to the indirect effects arising from development in two respects:

– nitrogen deposition caused by motor vehicles

– impacts from recreational use of the forest
It can be particularly difficult to model the levels at which those effects are likely to arise. Any standardised thresholds are bound to be simplistic and to err either on the side of unnecessary restriction of development or on the side of risking significant harm to the forest. But we can’t embark on a huge multi-disciplinary research project every time any change is proposed – and, even then, will the results be accurate?

Whether we are in or out of the EU, I assume that we all accept that there are some particularly special places such as Ashdown Forest that require longterm protection due their nature conservation value and which can be harmed in a number of ways by the incremental effects (direct and indirect) of development? Equally, I’m sure we all recognise that a balance has to be struck in the level of survey work and assessment that local planning authorities and developers should do to determine whether development will acceptable?

It would never be easy to construct a legal regime that provides a fair and efficient process for determining what survey work and assessment is required and where the dividing line is between what is acceptable and unacceptable. As both a Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area, the Ashdown Forest is protected under the EU’s Habitats and Birds Directive, transposed in England and Wales by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
In basic summary, if it cannot be proven, beyond reasonable scientific doubt, that there will be no significant effect on the site either alone or in combination with other plans or projects, “appropriate assessment” is required, namely consideration of the impacts on the integrity of the European site, either alone on in combination with other plans and projects, with regard to the site’s structure and function and its conservation objectives. If the assessment determines that there will be adverse impacts which cannot be mitigated or avoided by alternative solutions, the plan or project can only proceed in extremely limited circumstances. Appropriate assessment can be a significant undertaking. Relevant for what follows, policy makers have come up with a pragmatic mechanism of requiring contributions by developers to Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (“SANGs”) to provide for areas to come forward that will take recreational pressure away from protected sites as a standardised form of mitigation, often thereby avoiding the need for individual, development by development, appropriate assessment. 
Additional levels of protection, not just relevant to European designated sites, are provided by the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (in relation to the formulation of plans or programmes whose policies may give rise to significant environmental effects) and by the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (in relation to certain categories of development projects which may give rise to significant environmental effects). Each has a screening stage, by which the need for detailed assessment work can be avoided if it can be shown that significant environmental effects are unlikely to arise. 
The Great Repeal Bill will operate post Brexit so as to continue to give legal effect in the UK to all of these regimes until such time as Parliament reviews each of them. The Government published on 30 March its White Paper, Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the United Kingdom. It contains this details-free passage on environmental protection:
“The Government is committed to ensuring that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. 

The UK’s current legislative framework at national, EU and international level has delivered tangible environmental benefits, such as cleaner rivers and reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide and ozone depleting substances emissions. Many existing environmental laws also enshrine standards that affect the trade in products and substances across different markets, within the EU as well as internationally. 

The Great Repeal Bill will ensure that the whole body of existing EU environmental
 law continues to have effect in UK law. This will provide businesses and stakeholders with maximum certainty as we leave the EU. We will then have the opportunity,
over time, to ensure our legislative framework is outcome driven and delivers on our overall commitment to improve the environment within a generation. The Government recognises the need to consult on future changes to the regulatory frameworks, including through parliamentary scrutiny. ”
That may sound benign, but let’s keep an eye on that reference to ensuring “our legislative framework is outcome driven”. “Too much red tape’ appears to be the knee jerk reaction of many politicians to EU environmental legislation, viz recent jabs at protected species such as the great crested newt and at SANGs.
So have we got the balance right in our current legislation? Ashdown Forest has in the last two years given us four court rulings (three at Court of Appeal level) which in different ways identify the difficulties and complexities that inevitably arise in practice. If the sensitivity of a site such as the Ashdown Forest is a given, how would any other system better regulate the competing interests at play and provide an effective regime for determining forensically what are often complex and difficult environmental and ecological scientific issues?
Chronologically (if we ignore famous proceedings that ran from 1876 to 1882 as to the extent of commoners’ rights over the forest versus the rights of a landowner, the 7th Earl De La Warr), the cases have been as follows:

Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP v Wealden District Council and South Downs National Park Authority (Court of Appeal, 9 July 2015)

This was a challenge by local landowners, including in fact the 11th Earl De La Warr, to policies in the Wealden Local Plan, including a requirement for SANGs provision in relation to housing developments within 7 kilometres of the forest. The Court of Appeal quashed the requirement, holding “with a degree of reluctance” that the council and the national park authority had failed to consider reasonable alternatives to the 7 kilometres cordon, in breach of the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, overturning Sales J’s first instance ruling.  
Sales J had also rejected the landowners’ challenge to a cap on housing numbers in the plan, which had been justified on the basis of seeking to ensure that traffic movements did not increase beyond 1,000 AADT (annual average daily traffic flows on any road in the forest, equivalent to a 1% increase), treated by the authorities and Natural England as a threshold beyond which appropriate assessment would be required under the Habitats Regulations. The landowners were not given permission to appeal that ground and so that housing numbers policy stands. 
Secretary of State v Wealdon District Council (Court of Appeal, 31 January 2017)
This was a challenge by Wealden District Council to an inspector’s decision to allow an appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the construction of 103 dwellings, 42 of them to be provided as affordable housing, and the provision of 10 hectares of SANGs and public open space, on land at Steel Cross, a small settlement to the north of Crowborough. The site is about 2.4 km from the edge of the forest. The inspector had found that there would have been a need for appropriate assessment despite the 1,000 AADT threshold not having been reached, but for proposed mitigation in the form of financial contributions towards heathland management. The challenge had succeeded at first instance before Lang J and the Court of Appeal had to address a number of submissions from the opposing parties based on SAC and SPA issues:
– did the inspector adopt too strict an approach in concluding that there was no need for an appropriate assessment? 
– was he wrong to assume that heathland management to mitigate the effects of nitrogen deposition would be carried out under a strategic access management and monitoring strategy (“SAMMS”)? 

– did he fail to take into account evidence given for the council on the efficacy of heathland management?

The Court of Appeal held that the inspector’s approach to the potential relevance of even relatively small additional traffic numbers had not been wrong but he had failed to justify why, in the face of contrary evidence from the council, he considered that heathland management would amount to adequate mitigation. Furthermore:
“As Mr Price Lewis submitted, the inspector did not explain how he thought the financial contributions in the section 106 obligation were in fact going to be translated into practical measures to prevent or overcome the possible effects of nitrogen deposition to which he had referred, as well as funding the SAMMS projects which would tackle the potential effects of recreational use. He did not say what he thought was actually going to be done, by whom, and when, in implementing the “habitat management” upon which his conclusion on the need for “appropriate assessment” was predicated. That conclusion depended on his judgment that, with mitigation, including heathland management to mitigate the effects of nitrogen deposition, the proposed development, together with other proposals, was not likely to have significant effects on the European site. Such mitigation, as he made clear, was essential to his “precautionary approach”. So if there was any real doubt about the requisite heathland management coming forward, his conclusion that an “appropriate assessment” was not required would, to that extent, be undermined. It was necessary for him to establish with reasonable certainty that the relevant mitigation, including heathland management, would actually be delivered. But he did not do that. He did not identify a solid proposal for heathland management, relevant to this proposed development, to which there was a firm commitment on the part of those who were going to carry it out. His conclusions in paragraphs 68 and 71 of his decision letter, and in paragraph 105, clearly depended on the concept that the “contributions to SAMMS” in the section 106 obligation “would” – as he put it – actually be used, in part, to fund “projects” of “habitat management”. These projects would involve measures, such as cutting and grazing to reduce, “offset” or “outweigh” the effects of nitrogen deposition attributable to this development in combination with other proposals, including “additional eutrophication”. But which “projects” he had in mind is obscure.”
The planning permission was quashed. 
R (DLA Delivery Ltd) v Lewes District Council (Court of Appeal, 10 February 2017)  
This case raises a number of issues in relation to neighbourhood planning (see my 19.2.17 blog post, Five Problems With Neighbourhood Plans ) but for the purposes of this blog post the relevant question before the Court of Appeal was whether the neighbourhood plan for Newick, approximately 7 km from the forest, contravened the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive in that the need for strategic environmental assessment had been screened out, relying on on the emerging sustainability appraisal work carried out by Lewes District Council and the national park authority. The claim had been brought by a promoter of a scheme which had not been allocated for development in the plan. If SEA had been found to be required, this would have given it the opportunity to promote its site as a reasonable alternative for those allocated, given that it was outside the magic 7 km radius of the forest. Whilst the court found errors in the council’s reasoning for arriving at a negative screening opinion, they were not such as to vitiate the decision and the plan was not quashed. 
Wealden District Council v Secretary of State, Lewes District Council and South Downs National Park Authority  (Jay J, 20 March 2017)
The forest lies within Wealden’s and the national park authority’s respective administrative areas. Lewes District Council’s boundary is around 5-6km from the forest. This was a challenge by Wealden District Council of a joint core strategy prepared by Lewes and the national park authority. Wealden claimed that Lewes and the national park authority had acted unlawfully in concluding, on advice from Natural England, that the joint core strategy would not be likely to have a significant effect on the SAC in combination with the Wealden core strategy. 
Natural England had advised that if the expected increase in AADT flows on any route within 200m of a protected site was less than 1,000 cars per day or 200 HGVs per day, equivalent to less than a 1% increase in traffic, then appropriate assessment was not necessary. The expected increase turned out to be 190 AADT, but the expected increase of 950 generated by proposals in the Wealden core strategy was ignored. The defendants tried to argue before the court that the 1,000 AADT threshold was “sufficiently robust and precautionary to cover any likely scenario of in-combination effects. The amounts of nitrogen dioxide in play are so small that they are effectively de minimis and of neutral effect”. 
The judge held that Natural England’s approach was “plainly erroneous”. There was “no sensible or logical basis” for excluding the Wealden core strategy from account” and a “clear breach” of the Habitats Directive. 
A couple of additional points to note:
– The challenge was to policies in the joint core strategy, but (unlike the national park authority) Lewes had adopted it more than six weeks before the challenge had been brought. Accordingly only the policies relating to the provision of new housing in the national park authority’s area were quashed. 
– In an extreme case of nominative determinism, Natural England’s expert advisor, as in a number of these cases, was one Marion Ashdown. 

Controversy relating to Ashdown Forest is likely to continue if a recent Daily Mirror piece  on the Mid-Sussex local plan inspector’s 20 February 2017 preliminary conclusions on housing requirements is anything to go by…
So what do we conclude from all of this?
Even once we agree that complex eco-systems such as Ashdown Forest need protection, the dividing line between an appropriate precautionary approach to house-building in the vicinity and inappropriate over-protection is really hard to draw, and it is equally difficult to apply triage so as to reduce the amount of detailed assessment work required. 
The necessary predictions draw upon scientific disciplines such as chemistry, statistics, ecology and psychology as much as they are about planning or law. 
Perhaps there is room for greater clarity. After all, it is concerning when even the Government’s statutory advisory body can be “plainly erroneous” in its approach. And it is concerning that so many complex cases are reaching the courts – and leading to the quashing of decisions and policies. This hardly gives a certain basis for house building. 
But don’t think that this is ever going to be easy or that the problems mainly lie with the nature of the EU directives from which the legal principles flow. We will reinvent the wheel at our peril. 

After all that, perhaps there is one thing on which we can all agree?

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” (A.A. Milne)

Simon Ricketts 8.4.17
Personal views, et cetera

Great Expectations: Pip & The Brownfield Land Registers

“We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late and too far to go back, and I went on“. (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations)
Permissions in principle will change our planning system significantly, mark my words. In my 11.6.16 blog post  I posed a series of questions arising from the legislative skeleton that is sections 150 and 151 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. 
Victorian part-work style, we now have had the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Permission in Principle etc) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2017  (made 6 March 2017, in force 27 March 2017), the Town and Country Planning (Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017  (made 20 March 2017, in force 16 April 2017) and the Town and Country Planning (Permission in Principle) Order 2017 (made 20 March 2017, 15 April 2017). The statutory instruments don’t yet give effect to all of what sections 150 and 151 enable, but we now have some answers. 
This blog post is not a full summary of how the regime will operate. There are various good summaries but I particularly recommend the Lichfields 27 March 2017 ‘essential guide‘.
A few headlines from the new regime:
1. Local planning authorities will be under a statutory duty to publish their brownfield land registers by 31 December 2017 and then maintain them, reviewing the entries at least annually. 
2. The registers will be in two parts:
– Part 1: previously developed land with an area of at least 0.25 hectares that is suitable and available for residential development and where residential development is achievable (all defined terms)
– Part 2: land in Part 1 where the local planning authority has exercised its discretion to enter the land in Part 2 and has decided to allocate the land for residential development having followed defined publicity, notification and consultation procedures. 

3. The information that must be recorded for each entry is specified and includes

– “the minimum and maximum net number of dwellings, given as a range, which in the authority’s opinion, the land is capable of supporting”

– “where the development includes non-housing development, the scale of any such development and the use to which it is to be put“. 

4. Part 2 will not include sites where the development would require environmental impact assessment. So, if the proposed development falls within Schedule 2 column 1 of the 2011 EIA regulations (for most purposes, more than 150 dwellings or on more than 5 hectares), a negative screening opinion or direction must first be obtained (but remember, indicative screening thresholds as to when significant environmental effects are likely to arise allow for the possibility of projects much larger than 150 dwellings). 

5. There are no statutory rights of appeal if the local planning authority refuses to include land on the register (ECHR article 6 compliant?). Judicial review would, as always with any decision of a public body, be available but the decision to include land on Part 2 is at the local planning authority’s discretion so that would not be easy.  

6. Once land is on Part 2 it has automatic “permission in principle” for five years. In order to be able to carry out the development, application for technical details consent is required, particularising “all matters necessary to enable planning permission to be granted”. The statutory determination period for technical details consent is ten weeks for major development and otherwise five weeks, so deliberately shorter than the equivalent periods in relation to “traditional” non-EIA planning applications (thirteen and eight weeks respectively). A section 106 agreement may be required if the usual tests are met. 

7. There is no defined limit on the extent of non-housing development that can benefit from the procedure, alongside residential development. 

8. The procedure applies to conversion and extension of existing buildings as well as development. 

For a wider overview of where this mechanism is heading, there are also useful references in DCLG Planning Update Newsletter March 2017, from which it is clear that further regulations will follow to (1) allow applications for permission in principle to be made for minor development (ie basically less than ten homes) for sites on part 1 of a brownfield land register and to (2) allow automatic permission in principle to stem from allocation in defined categories of statutory development plans rather than just from designation on a brownfield land register. Guidance is also in the offing (dovetailed with the revised NPPF? We can but hope). 
We also await the Government’s response to its February 2016 technical consultation on implementation of planning changes  chapter 2 (permission in principle) and chapter 3 (brownfield register). It was originally promised to be published alongside the regulations. In the meantime, a number of passages in the consultation document are useful in putting flesh on the bones:

“The result of a grant of permission in principle is that the acceptability of the ‘prescribed particulars’ cannot be re-opened when an application for technical details consent is considered by the local planning authority. Local planning authorities will not have the opportunity to impose any conditions when they grant permission in principle. It will therefore be important for the development granted in principle to be described in sufficient detail, to ensure that the parameters within which subsequent application for technical details consent must come forward is absolutely clear.”

“We expect that the parameters of the technical details that need to be agreed, such as essential infrastructure provision, will have been described at the permission in principle stage and will vary from site to site”

“We are proposing that local planning authorities should use existing evidence within an up to date Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment as the starting point for identifying suitable sites for local brownfield registers. To support this, we will encourage authorities to consider whether their Assessments are up to date and, if not, to undertake prompt reviews. 


While sites contained within the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment are a useful starting point, we will encourage local authorities to ensure they have considered any other relevant sources if these are not included in their Assessments. This could include sites with extant planning permission and sites known to the authority that have not previously been considered (for example public sector land). 


We will also expect authorities to use the existing call for sites process to ask members of the public and other interested parties to volunteer potentially suitable sites for inclusion in their registers. We propose that this would be a short targeted exercise aimed at as wide an audience as is practicable. That will enable windfall sites to be put forward by developers and others for consideration by the authority. 

Authorities that have recently undertaken a full Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment may not consider this to be necessary when initially compiling a register. However, in areas without up to date evidence and for all authorities completing subsequent annual reviews of their register, the process of volunteering potentially suitable sites will play an important role in refreshing the evidence base and help ensure all suitable sites, including windfall sites, are included.”

“We intend to introduce measures that will apply where additional action is needed to ensure that sufficient progress is being made. These measures could include a policy based incentive which would mean that local planning authorities that had failed to make sufficient progress against the brownfield objective would be unable to claim the existence of an up-to-date five year housing land supply when considering applications for brownfield development, and therefore the presumption in favour of sustainable development would apply.

“We propose that the measures we adopt would take effect fully from 2020, and would apply to any local planning authority that had not met the 90% commitment by that date. However, in light of the need for local planning authorities to make continuous progress towards the 90% commitment, we are also interested in views on any intermediate objectives and actions that might apply. “

Be in no doubt, eventually we will have a mechanism that:

– imposes hard statutory deadlines on authorities to publish and regularly update their registers
– whilst light on statutory recourses for developers whose land is not included, will be focused on by Government – woe betide authorities that do not play ball

– will in many cases provide a quicker route to development than the familiar allocation, outline permission, reserved matters approach

– will be potentially relevant for establishing the development credentials of a site even if in due course a traditional planning application is intended

If you have residential development or conversion in mind, the first step is to seek to ensure that your property is on Part 1 of the first round of brownfield land registers, to be published by 31 December 2017. Within the 73 authority pilot areas  this process is well underway. Although care is needed to secure reference to an appropriate scale of development, that’s a pretty immediate way to secure acceptance that your site is suitable for residential development!

Simon Ricketts 1.4.17
Personal views, et cetera