Tall Buildings & Fire Safety

It’s hard to plan when policies are continually in a state of flux, when there is uncertainty as to where the controls lie – via the planning system or via separate legislation – and when there is the possibility of inconsistency as between the differing regimes.

Take fire safety in relation to buildings for instance.  The Government is proposing to tighten the Building Regulations – it published a consultation document on 23 December 2022 proposing various amendments to Approved Document B, which include recommending the inclusion of sprinklers in all new care homes, regardless of building height, as well as introducing a threshold whereby residential buildings above 30 metres in height should be designed and built with two staircases. A “very short” transition period is proposed:

59. The transition period will allow time for schemes to be completed but should not allow the opportunity for developments to get off the ground ahead of the new requirements coming into effect.

60. We would encourage all developments to prepare for this change now.”

The consultation runs until 17 March 2023.

Why is 30 metres proposed as the threshold?

56. 30 metres is an accepted threshold for increased safety measures such as increased fire resistance provisions and marks a recognised trigger representing an increase in the level of risks in buildings overall. We therefore propose to introduce a new trigger in Approved Document B making provisions such that new residential buildings more than 30 metres are provided with a second staircase.

57. There is no standard international approach to the provision of staircases within residential buildings of height. The approaches taken by other countries, varies greatly depending on other fire mitigation measures such as travel distances, provision of sprinklers, compartmentation, cavity barriers etc. Where other countries set a maximum height for the provision of single stairs, this ranges from 18m to 75m in height.”

This is all clear – or will be once the amended Approved Document B is published.

However, with operation of the planning system, and the inherent discretion given to decision makers within it, comes additional uncertainty.

My 3 July 2021 blog post Safety & Planning covered the requirements introduced by the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure and Section 62A Applications) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021, which introduced a requirement for a fire statement to be submitted with applications for planning permission for development involving a building (1) contains two or more dwellings or educational accommodation and (2) contains 7 or more storeys or is 18 metres or more in height and which required consultation with the Health and Safety Executive before the grant of planning permission involving a high-rise residential building in certain circumstances.

In practice, HSE’s responses to local planning authorities provide its substantive response, setting out any specific significant areas of concern arising from the proposal, as well as “supplementary information for the applicant” which is more advisory in nature.

Whilst it is of course open to a decision maker to take into account the advice of a statutory consultee but to determine, with appropriate reasoning, why it is appropriate not to follow the advice, in matters of human safety it would be a brave officer, committee of councillors or inspector who were to take that approach. What the HSE has to say is therefore extremely important. But it is also important to ensure that its requirements do not go beyond what is reasonably required.

Just because the HSE is satisfied gives no certainty that there will be no fire brigade objection. Whilst not statutory consultees, the relevant local fire brigade, for instance, in London, the London Fire Brigade, may also choose to make representations in relation to a proposal and the same considerations apply. Whilst they are a statutory consultee under the Building Regulations, by the time that a proposed development has planning permission it may of course be too late to build into the design the additional measures that are required so one can well understand why it is sensible for concerns to be expressed at this stage, although again, plainly, they should not go beyond what is reasonably required.

Neither the NPPF nor national planning practice guidance sets out the criteria to be applied. Although this has no Government policy endorsement, the National Fire Chiefs Council’s position is that the maximum height for buildings with a single staircase should be 18 metres, rather than 30 metres. Its Single Staircases Policy Position Statement (15 December 2022) says this:

NFCC believe, that 18 metres or has at least 7 storeys must become the threshold at which more than one staircase should be required in new residential buildings, and that this threshold should be kept under review alongside other situations addressing these issues, including evacuation management and lifts.”

Multiple protected staircases create more resilience to support evacuation and firefighting operations. The need for unambiguous guidance is particularly important given the clear problem with culture and competency identified across the design and construction industry since the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

An 18 metre or has at least 7 storeys threshold would provide continuity of message and clarity across Government, aligning with definitions in the Building Safety Act as well as thresholds for certain provisions in the Fire Safety (England) Regulations and the Government’s ban on the use of combustible materials. This would also help to synchronise standards across the United Kingdom by aligning to rules in Scotland. While arguments exist for a range of thresholds, both higher and lower, 18 metres or has at least 7 storeys would bring the greatest harmonisation with the wider regulatory environment in the United Kingdom, and the greatest simplicity and certainty for industry at this time.”

 So is it to be 30 metres, as consulted upon by the Government, for the purposes of the operation in due course of the Building Regulations – or 18 metres, as advocated by the National Fire Chiefs Council?

Policy D12B of the Mayor of London’s London Plan 2021 goes further than the statutory requirement for a fire statement and requires a separate, more detailed, fire statement to be submitted with any application for planning permission for “major development proposals”. It must be prepared by someone who is “third-party independent and suitably-qualified” – “a qualified engineer with relevant experience in fire safety, such as a chartered engineer registered with the Engineering Council by the Institution of Fire Engineers, or suitably qualified and competent professional with the demonstrable experience to address the complexity of the design being proposed.” The statement must set out how the proposed development will function in terms of:

•             The building’s construction method and products and materials used

•             Means of escape for all building users and evacuation strategy

•             Passive and active fire safety measures

•             Access and facilities for the fire and rescue service

•             Site access for the fire and rescue service

•             Future development of the asset and the ‘Golden Thread’ of information

So two separate fire statements. Appeals have been dismissed where this has not been done (see eg here).

The Mayor’s draft London Plan Guidance on fire safety does not (yet at least) specify in guidance the height of buildings a second staircase is required, but, following the NFCC’s statement, I understand that the Mayor’s office has taken the position last week that, until it has had further discussions with the Government on the issue, it will not take schemes to the Mayor for stage 2 sign off where the proposals are for 18m+ high residential buildings with single staircase access.

Isn’t this area a classic illustration of how, even for the best of reasons (people’s lives), looking to the planning system to address matters which are the proper domain of other legislation is so often a recipe for delay and confusion, particularly where there is no specific national guidance on the issue? Don’t we need:

  1. Clear, robust standards
  2. Clarity as to which regime will set out and police compliance with those standards
  3. Clear signposting of any proposed changes to standards, with appropriate transitional arrangements?

….

In other news:

I hope plenty of people read my Town partner Clare Fielding’s blog post Still IL – if I draw a Venn diagram with a circle around those of you who are interested in the proposed Infrastructure Levy and a circle around those of you who are aficionados of the Smiths and if you are in the intersection between the circles, this is a must-read.

Thanks if you tuned into our clubhouse discussion last week on DLUHC’s 22 December announcements, where we went through the various proposed changes to the NPPF. Over 500 of you have listened so far. The link is here. However I think the best summary of the proposals that I have read so far is by Sam Stafford. His 50 Shades of Planning blog post, National Planning Policy Fudge (4 January 2023),  is well worth a read (and I’ve got to be nice to him as he is tidying up the clubhouse recording for subsequent release in his podcast series).

Simon Ricketts, 7 January 2023

Personal views, et cetera

Courtesy Mario La Pergola via Unsplash

It’s Been A Good Year For The ROSEs (& Bloggers Etc)

A tumultuous year ends. Authority after authority in the south east, or the Rest of the South East, as we used to call it before regional planning so as to exclude London, is pausing or going slow with its local plan, given the signals from Government that authorities will soon find it easier to decide not to plan to meet their local housing needs. (It’s not just in the south east I know but I desperately needed to make the Elvis Costello pun work).

In terms of policy, nothing yet has changed at all. But the excuses are already being found.

Planning Resource for instance reported on 19 December 2022 that:

  • Horsham District Council has delayed its cabinet meeting to consider its proposed Regulation 19 consultation draft plan from 15 December 2022.
  • Mole Valley District Council has paused preparation of its new local plan/
  • The Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils have announced an 11 month delay to the preparation of their emerging joint local plan

And this was before Michael Gove’s 22 December 2022 announcements as to proposed reforms to national planning policy that I blogged about that day (and which we will be discussing on clubhouse at 4 pm, 4 January – tune in to blow those cobwebs away! Join via this link – do RSVP in the link and get it in your diaries).

Someone please post some stats, I can’t immediately find them in my post-Christmas haze, but these delays have of course been building up over the year. Back on 2 September 2022 Planning Resource was reporting on the 19 authorities that have withdrawn or delayed local plans in the past year . Before that on 26 April 2022 Lichfields were reporting on 11 authorities that had either stalled, delayed or withdrawn their local plans. Go back even further to my 12 February 2022 blog post, Local Plan Breaking.

No doubt we will see over the course of 2023 how all this plays out in the light of the two successive waves of changes to the NPPF that we have now been told to expect.

It’s also been a good year for the bloggers and podcasters. Shout outs to Zack the Planorak, Nicola the Gooch, Sam 50 Shades Stafford, Raj Compulsory Reading Gupta and to my colleagues responsible for the Planning Law (With Chickens) podcasts (Victoria McKeegan, Nikita Sellers and Meeta Kaur). You all keep me on my toes and occasionally wondering what I have to add. But in any event thank you everyone for continuing to read and engage – sitting down every week for an hour or two to do these notes to self remains the only way I can hope to keep track for myself of what is happening and for people to find this occasionally useful or entertaining is always an unexpected bonus..

These were my most-read posts of 2022:

  1. New NE Nutrient Neutrality & Recreational Impact Restrictions (+ DEFRA Nature Recovery Green Paper) (18 March 2022)
  2. Running Down That Hillside (2 November 2022)
  3. EZ Does It: Charter Cities, Freeports, Development Corporations (30 July 2022)
  4. Local Plan Breaking (12 February 2022)
  5. It Will Soon Be Christmas & We Really Don’t Have To Rush To Conclusions On This New NPPF Consultation Draft (22 December 2022)

Looking back, these were the posts that pretty much wrote themselves in reaction to what was happening all around us: the neutralities issues, the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hillside, the bizarre happenings within that brief Truss premiership, the local plan making crisis and of course the Government’s planning reform agenda. In fact, at the foot of this post there is a table of month by month views of the blog since it started in June 2016. Views have been dependent not on any writing quality but on subject matter (oh, and the lockdowns certainly helped).

I’m sure there will be plenty of planning law to write about next year, all of it as yet unplanned.

Healthy new year all. And in the wise words of Elvis Costello: Get Happy.

Simon Ricketts. 31 December 2022

Personal views, et cetera

It Will Soon Be Christmas & We Really Don’t Have To Rush To Conclusions On This New NPPF Consultation Draft

Plenty of easy Christmas present jokes to be had but I’ll avoid them – the Government’s consultation document on proposed reforms to national planning policy and indicative mark-up of the NPPF have arrived (22 December 2022).

There is much to take on board. By way of indication, the consultation document lists 58 questions. It’s 32 pages or so long.

But don’t panic!

Consultation doesn’t close until 3 March 2023. There is plenty of time for thinking to percolate and indeed to assist with that we have the special Planning Law Unplanned clubhouse discussion at 4pm on 4 January 2023 featuring various planners and planning lawyers. Join the event via this link – do RSVP in the link and get it in your diaries.

I am relieved that for once what we have been presented with is comprehensive and well explained. This is no longer a “prospectus” as to what the nature of the proposed changes but includes the actual proposed wording of the revised NPPF itself (this revision at least – another revision is already promised). The changes are by and large not a surprise, having been heavily trailed since Michael Gove resumed office. I urge you to scroll through the indicative mark-up of the NPPF – the changes are easy to spot, for instance:

  • watering down of the paragraph 11 (d) tilted balance and of the requirements on local planning authorities to maintain an adequate housing supply and meet housing delivery targets
  • watering down of the local plan “soundness” test
  • references to the standard method as only an “advisory starting point
  • express references to the needs for retirement housing, housing with care and care homes
  • References to “beauty” and a weirdly specific passage extolling the virtues of mansard roofs
  • Green Belt boundaries are not required to be reviewed and altered if this would be the only means of meeting the objectively assessed need for housing over the plan period
  • Changes in relation to climate change and renewable energy
  • The availability of agricultural land used for food production should be considered, alongside the other policies in this Framework, when deciding what sites are most appropriate for development“.
  • Important transitional arrangements in paragraph 225 and 226

But what is being consulted upon does not stop at the proposed changes to the NPPF but also covers various other longer term aspects of the reform agenda.

If one thing shines through the consultation document it is that re-construction of the system is going to be underway for some years. An indicative timeline:

Consultation closes: 3 March 2023

Government response to consultation and publication of revised NPPF: Spring 2023

Changes to take effect that are being consulted upon in the current document as to:

  • Increasing the emphasis on provision of social rented housing
  • More older people’s housing
  • More small sites for small builders
  • Greater emphasis on the role that community-led development can have in supporting the provision of more locally-led affordable homes

Consultation on proposed changes to the rest of the NPPF and on more detailed policy options and proposals for National Development Management Policies (supported by environmental assessments), once the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is passed through all its Parliamentary stages: from Spring 2023 (NB there is much already in the consultation document which helps in setting out more clearly than previously the intended scope of national development management policies, which will be in a separate document to the NPPF)

Three further measures to be introduced, via changes to the NPPF to encourage developers to build out “as soon as possible”:

“a) We will publish data on developers of sites over a certain size in cases where they fail to build out according to their commitments.

b) Developers will be required to explain how they propose to increase the diversity of housing tenures to maximise a development scheme’s absorption rate (which is the rate at which homes are sold or occupied).

c) The National Planning Policy Framework will highlight that delivery can be a material consideration in planning applications. This could mean that applications with trajectories that propose a slow delivery rate may be refused in certain circumstances.”

There will be “a separate consultation on proposals to introduce a financial penalty against developers who are building out too slowly”.

Changes to the soundness test will apply to local plans which have not reached pre-submission consultation stage within 3 months of the revised NPPF: summer 2023

Further updates to the NPPF: later in 2023

Whilst flexibility as to the use of the standard method will be in place from Spring 2023 as part of the revised NPPF, there will be a review of standard method for calculating local housing need, once 2021 census is published: 2024 (NB “It remains our intention to publish the 2022 Housing Delivery Test results. However, given our proposed changes and consultation on the workings of the Housing Delivery Test, we would like to receive views on whether the test’s consequences should follow from the publication of the 2022 Test or if they should be amended, suspended until the publication of the 2023 Housing Delivery Test, or frozen to reflect the 2021 Housing Delivery Test results while work continues on our proposals to improve it. We will take a decision on the approach to the Housing Delivery Test and the implementation of any the proposed changes in due course, once we have analysed consultation responses”).

Implementation of the LURB plan-making reforms: late 2024

Transitional arrangements will mean that for the purposes of decision-making, “where emerging local plans have been submitted for examination or where they have been subject to a Regulation 18 or 19 consultation which included both a policies map and proposed allocations towards meeting housing need, those authorities will benefit from a reduced housing land supply requirement. This will be a requirement to demonstrate a 4-year supply of land for housing, instead of the usual 5”: two year transitional period, so until Spring 2025

Deadline of 30 June 2025 for plan makers to “submit their local plans, neighbourhood plans, minerals and waste plans, and spatial development strategies for independent examination under the existing legal framework; this will mean that existing legal requirements and duties, for example the Duty to Cooperate, will still apply.

We are also proposing that all independent examinations of local plans, minerals and waste plans and spatial development strategies must be concluded, with plans adopted, by 31 December 2026. These plans will be examined under the current legislation.”

Latest date for any old-style local and minerals and waste plans to be adopted (or in the case of Strategic Development Strategies, published): April 2027

Latest date when LPAs must begin the new style plan-making process (if their previous plan was adopted on 31 December 2026): 31 December 2031

Of course these dates, all of them taken from or derived from the consultation document, could slip (surely not!) and priorities could move in an entirely different direction, but somehow I sense that this is a package of reforms which is more likely to stick. So let’s have a rest for a week or so after a ridiculous year, maybe tune in on 4 January, but in any event do some constructive thinking over the next couple of months ahead of that consultation deadline. It’s a serious set of proposals which deserves a serious response. Since I came off Twitter I think I may be getting a bit soft….

Merry Christmas.

Simon Ricketts, 22 December 2022

Personal views, et cetera

Photo courtesy of Mel Poole via Unsplash

Prospective Prospectus

My 6 December 2022 blog post Gove Gives: Local Housing Need Now Just “Advisory” summarised the contents of his written ministerial statement that day which promised a “National Planning Policy Framework prospectus, which will be put out for consultation by Christmas”.

I mentioned in the blog post a letter which he had written to all MPs the previous day which had gone into more detail that the statement. I hadn’t included a link to the letter. It is here. What is even more interesting is that there is another letter, of the same date, written just to Conservative MPs. The link to that one is here.

The introduction to the letter to Conservative MPs makes the intended policy direction very clear. For instance:

Whatever we do at a national level, politics is always local and there is no area that demonstrates this more than planning. Through reforms made by Conservative-led governments since 2010, we have a locally-led planning system – for instance, by scrapping policies like top-down regional targets that built nothing but resentment – and introducing neighbourhood planning. These reforms have delivered a record of which Conservatives can be proud. I also do not need to remind you that under the last Labour government, housebuilding reached its lowest rate since the 1920s.

But there is much more to do to ensure we can build enough of the right homes in the right places with the right infrastructure, and to ensure that local representatives can decide where – and where not – to place new development. As Conservatives, we recognise both the fundamental importance of home ownership and that we can only deliver the homes we need if we bring the communities we represent with us. These are the promises on which we stood in our manifesto and ones that I and the Prime Minister are determined to deliver.

I am therefore writing to set out the further changes I will be making to the planning system, alongside the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which address many colleagues’ concerns. They will place local communities at the heart of the planning system.

As you know I share the views of many colleagues about the current system. That it does not provide the right homes in the right places, and at its worst risks imposing ever more stretching housing targets that are out of touch with reality – leading to developers taking advantage through planning by appeal and speculative development. Communities feel that they are under siege, and I am clear that this approach will never be right or sustainable if we want to build the homes that our communities want and need.”

This Government weaves around planning reform like Kylian Mbappe. First the 2020 white paper, then the u-turn after the Chesham and Amersham by-election, then the Kwarteng “growth growth growth” plan – and now placing house-building delivery firmly in the hands of “communities” – in reality, at root, existing home owners – with a weakened process for local plan examination:

I will ensure that plans no longer have to be ‘justified’, meaning that there will be a lower bar for assessment, and authorities will no longer have to provide disproportionate amounts of evidence to argue their case.”

Is all of this just another feint, a shimmy past the Tory rebel MPs to ensure that planning reform can actually progress? Or genuine capitulation – genuflection to the election pamphlet needs of political colleagues? Zack Simons doesn’t mince his words in his 8 December 2022 blog post Notes on reform: the Government gives up – essential reading.

The matters to be consulted upon in the forthcoming prospectus are numerous. Steve Quartermain and I were counting them this week and ran out of fingers – the letters include commitments to consultation as to at least the following matters:

  • Changes to the method for calculating local housing need figures
  • Dropping the requirement for a 20% buffer to be added to housing land supply numbers for both plan making and decision taking
  • What should be within the scope of the new National Development Management Policies
  • Each new National Development Management Policy before it is brought forward
  • Detailed proposals for increases in planning fees
  • A New planning performance framework that will monitor local performance across a broader set of measures of planning service delivery, including planning enforcement
  • Further measures (i) allowing local planning authorities to refuse planning applications from developers who have built out slowly in the past and (ii) making sure that local authorities who permission land are not punished under the housing delivery test when it is developers who are not building
  • A new approach to accelerating the speed at which permissions are built out, specifically on a new financial penalty
  • How to address the issue of the planning system being “undermined by irresponsible developers and landowners who persistently ignore planning rules and fail to deliver their commitments to the community”.
  • Amending national policy to support development on small sites, particularly with respect to affordable housing
  • Further measures that would prioritise the use of brownfield land
  • Details of how a discretionary registration scheme for short term lets in England would be administered
  • Reviewing the Use Classes Order so that it “enables places such as Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District to better control changes of use to short term lets if they wish“.

There is a lot to take in here – both what is written and what is between the lines. To try to help make sense of the prospectus when it lands, there will be a special Planning Law Unplanned clubhouse discussion at 4pm on 4 January 2023 featuring various planners and planning lawyers, including myself, Zack, Steve and many more. Join the event via this link – do RSVP in the link and get it in your diaries.

Simon Ricketts, 10 December 2022

Personal views, et cetera

Gove Gives: Local Housing Need Now Just “Advisory”

A deal has been reached between the Government and those rebel MPs who had threatened to derail the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. And so we have Michael Gove’s written statement to the House of Commons today 6 December 2022, in the wake of a letter written to all MPs on 5 December 2022 and a 5 December 2022 press statement. Of course, when we talk about the Bill, that is short-hand for the reform package as a whole, including most crucially the proposed amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework. 

Those proposed amendments are soon to be fleshed out in the National Planning Policy Framework prospectus, “which will be put out for consultation by Christmas” (i.e. by the time that the Commons rises on 20 December 2022). It is going to be thin gruel for those of us who believe that this country has a housing crisis and that part of the solution to that crisis is to build more homes, where they are most needed.  

I’ll just summarise here what the written ministerial statement covers. The letter to MPs goes into further detail.

There will be an amended method for calculating local housing need, which will be “advisory. “It will be up to local authorities, working with their communities, to determine how many homes can actually be built, taking into account what should be protected in each area – be that our precious Green Belt or national parks, the character of an area, or heritage assets. It will also be up to them to increase the proportion of affordable housing if they wish.

Of course it is not currently mandatory that local authorities plan for the level of local housing need arrived at via the current standard method, but there is a heavy onus on authorities to justify departures. 

Paragraph 35 of the current NPPF sets out the “soundness test”, including that plans are “positively prepared”, meaning that they are “providing a strategy which, as a minimum, seeks to meet the area’s objectively assessed needs; and is informed by agreements with other authorities, so that unmet need from neighbouring areas is accommodated where it is practical to do so and is consistent with achieving sustainable development.

Paragraph 61 of the current NPPF says this:

To determine the minimum number of homes needed, strategic policies should be informed by a local housing need assessment, conducted using the standard method in national planning guidance – unless exceptional circumstances justify an alternative approach which also reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals. In addition to the local housing need figure, any needs that cannot be met within neighbouring areas should also be taken into account in establishing the amount of housing to be planned for.”

It is plain that those circumstances are now to be widened, in ways which are more subjective, eg relying on perceived capacity constraints based on “the character of an area” (the letter to MPs gives the example of for instance “new blocks of high-rise flats which are entirely inappropriate in a low-rise neighbourhood” and talks of the need for “gentle densities”).  It will be open season for authorities and/or local campaigners to press the case for lower numbers to be adopted and/or for the required proportion of affordable housing to be set at such a financially onerous level that in practice chokes off the prospect of development. The proposed abolition of the duty to cooperate and its replacement by an “alignment” mechanism yet to be articulated just increases the plain jeopardy here. Open question: how will the Government be able to hold to its 300,000 homes a year target if significant numbers of authorities adjust their numbers downwards? Another open question: how important is mitigating the housing crisis to the Government versus fending off internal rebellions and having constituency-friendly developer-phobic policies?

Five year housing land supply requirement:

We will end the obligation on local authorities to maintain a rolling five-year supply of land for housing where their plans are up-to-date. Therefore for authorities with a local plan, or where authorities are benefitting from transitional arrangements, the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the ‘tilted balance’ will typically not apply in relation to issues affecting land supply.

I also want to consult on dropping the requirement for a 20% buffer to be added for both plan making and decision making – which otherwise effectively means that local authorities need to identify six years of supply rather than five. In addition, I want to recognise that some areas have historically overdelivered on housing – but they are not rewarded for this. My plan will therefore allow local planning authorities to take this into account when preparing a new local plan, lowering the number of houses they need to plan for.”

…Where authorities are well-advanced in producing a new plan, but the constraints which I have outlined mean that the amount of land to be released needs to be reassessed, I will give those places a two year period to revise their plan against the changes we propose and to get it adopted. And while they are doing this, we will also make sure that these places are less at risk from speculative development, by reducing the amount of land which they need to show is available on a rolling basis (from the current five years to four).

I will increase community protections afforded by a neighbourhood plan against developer appeals – increasing those protections from two years to five years…”

Ensuring timely build out:

I already have a significant package of measures in the Bill to ensure developers build out the developments for which they already have planning. I will consult on two further measures:

i) on allowing local planning authorities to refuse planning applications from developers who have built slowly in the past; and

ii) on making sure that local authorities who permission land are not punished under the housing delivery test when it is developers who are not building.

I will also consult on our new approach to accelerating the speed at which permissions are built out, specifically on a new financial penalty.”

Character of a developer:

I have heard and seen examples of how the planning system is undermined by irresponsible developers and landowners who persistently ignore planning rules and fail to deliver their legal commitments to the community. I therefore propose to consult on the best way of addressing this issue, including looking at a similar approach to tackling the slow build out of permissions, where we will give local authorities the power to stop developers getting permissions.”

Brownfield first:

I will consult to see what more we can do in national policy to support development on small sites particularly with respect to affordable housing and I will launch a review into identifying further measures that would prioritise the use of brownfield land. To help make the most of empty premises, including those above shops, I am reducing the period after which a council tax premium can be charged so that we can make the most of the space we already have. I will also provide further protection in national policy for our important agricultural land for food production, making it harder for developers to build on it.

Tourist accommodation/short-term lets

I intend to deliver a new tourist accommodation registration scheme as quickly as possible, working with DCMS, starting with a further short consultation on the exact design of the scheme. I will also consult on going further still and reviewing the Use Classes Order so that it enables places such as Devon, Cornwall, and the Lake District to control changes of use to short term lets if they wish.

More anon. 

Simon Ricketts, 6 December 2022

Personal views, et cetera

Nutrient Neutrality: Possibly Good News & Possibly Bad News

The Government appears to be in negotiation with Tory MPs (46 of them at least) who may be prepared to wreck the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill unless it includes a provision abolishing housebuilding targets for local authorities and abolishing the policy in the NPPF as to the maintenance of a five years’ supply of housing land. No doubt this will end up with some fudged solution adding further (1) uncertainty, (2) complexity and (3) hurdles in the way of housing provision. 

But in another part of the forest, assuming they will overcome that local difficulty (aka huge chasm), the Government has brought forward a further set of amendments to the Bill to seek to address the nutrient neutrality problem which has amounted to a de facto veto on housebuilding in many areas of the country (see eg my 23 July 2022 blog post Neutrality: Government Clambers Off The Fence).

This is what I am categorising as the possible good news. See DLUHC’s 25 November  2022 press statement Government sets out plan to reduce water pollution.

Government plans announced today will see:

  • A new legal duty on water companies in England to upgrade wastewater treatment works by 2030 in ‘nutrient neutrality’ areas to the highest achievable technological levels.
  • A new Nutrient Mitigation Scheme established by Natural England, helping wildlife and boosting access to nature by investing in projects like new and expanded wetlands and woodlands. This will allow local planning authorities to grant planning permission for new developments in areas with nutrient pollution issues, providing for the development of sustainable new homes and ensuring building can go ahead. Defra and DLUHC will provide funding to pump prime the scheme.”

The new legal duty on water and sewerage companies in England to upgrade certain wastewater plants will be introduced via a Government amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. We want these improvements to be factored in for the purposes of a Habitats Regulation Assessment.

The nutrient mitigation scheme “will be open to all developers, with priority given to smaller builders who are most affected. Developers can also continue to put their own mitigation schemes in place should they choose. Natural England will work with, not crowd out, new and existing private providers and markets for nutrient offsets wherever they exist.

The scheme is due to open in the Autumn. All affected areas can continue to access practical support from the government and Natural England in meeting nutrient neutrality requirements. Natural England will deliver the scheme by establishing an ‘Accelerator Unit’, with the support of Defra, DLUHC, the Environment Agency and Homes England.

This announcement will support the delivery of the tens of thousands of homes currently in the planning system, by significantly reducing the cost of mitigation requirements. The mitigation scheme will make delivering those requirements much easier for developers.”

The possible bad news? Not so much bad news but an inspector’s appeal decision letter which confirms that the Habitats Regulations’ assessment requirements do not just apply when an application for planning permission is determined but, if an assessment was not carried out at that stage, at reserved matters/ conditions discharge stage. This is of course one of the huge current frustrations. 

The decision letter, dated 24 November 2022, is here and is summarised by Landmark Chambers here.  

Charlie Banner KC was for the appellant and his submissions were in line with an opinion previously provided for the HBF and widely circulated. The issues are not straight-forward and we wait to see whether the  question will now come before the courts. 

Short blog post this week – too busy, and to0 much football to watch. 

Simon Ricketts, 26 November 2022

Personal views, et cetera

Pic courtesy Four Four Two

LURB/Forever Changes

May you live in interesting times.

Resignation of Rishi Sunak as chancellor – 5 July 2022

Resignation of Boris Johnson as prime minister – 7 July 2022

Replacement of Boris Johnson by Liz Truss as prime minister – 6 September 2022

Death of Her Majesty – 8 September 2022

Mini-budget and publication of growth plan – 23 September 2022 

Resignation of Liz Truss as prime minister – 20 October 2022

Replacement of Liz Truss by Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson or AN Other as prime minister – October 2022

A lot has happened. Or perhaps, in our planning world, nothing has happened. 

We briefly had a prime minister who talked of abolishing “top-down, Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets” and indeed the Levelling Up Secretary of State Simon Clarke (who incidentally came out publicly today as a backer of Boris Johnson) spoke about those targets as if they had already been abolished. But of course, as we wait for the mythical NPPF changes prospectus (delayed to November even before the Truss resignation which could lead to further delay), formal policy remains as is. The only effect of the loose talk was to give cover to local authorities anxious for an excuse to pause their local plan making. Thanks Liz – it wasn’t just the markets that you spooked. 

No doubt the change is on its way regardless but, honestly, how idiotic it would be to give up on having a methodology that identifies each local planning authority’s local housing needs, for which they should usually plan. The likely consequences of removing the targets are clear:

  • longer plan-making processes, particularly the examination stage
  • fewer homes delivered
  • more planning by appeal
  • plan-making increasingly largely driven by promises of funding to be provided and threats of funding to be removed. We can try to forget about that “pork markets” Truss quote but I suggest you retain at hand a much older phrase: “pork barrel politics”.

Zack Simons of course hit the mark in his 11 August 2022 blog post Notes from the hustings: the end of “Stalinist housing targets”? as did Lichfields’ Matthew Spry in his 12 October 2022 magnum opus Standard Method Mortuus Est). 

And what is wrong with top down targets anyway? Our health and education systems for instance are full of the things. 

Away from housing, the announcements in the growth plan in relation to, for instance, fracking (pro – despite the planning minister Lee Rowley being strongly against) and solar energy (anti) have not get found their way into any formal policy changes. 

There was the reference to a proposed Planning and Infrastructure Bill in the growth plan but no skin on the bones of that and no indication either of its relationship to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which on 20 October 2022 finally completed its Public Bill Stage with publication of a new version of the Bill as amended in Public Bill Committee. A 134 page list of committee stage decisions on proposed amendments was published on the same day. 

Now Nicola Gooch definitely deserves some sort of award (a Damehood in one of those resignation honours lists perhaps) for delving into the amended Bill in her 21 October 2022 blog post All that’s left is LURB…. The Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill comes out of Committee  and above all for this comparison version showing the changes made. 

I have scrolled through the amended Bill and aside from the detailed changes to schedule 11 (which relates to the infrastructure levy) mentioned by Nicola, and other minor tweaks, I would only draw attention to the following new provisions:

  • clause 111 – power to shorten the deadline for examination of DCO applications
  • clause 112 – additional powers in relation to non-material changes to DCOs
  • clause 152 – prospects of planning permission for alternative development [in the context of CPO compensation]

Next up will be Report stage and a debate on the Third Reading of the Bill and we shall see if any further amendments are tabled by the Secretary of State, whoever he or she may be at that stage. 

Simon Ricketts, 22 October 2022

Personal views, et cetera

Courtesy Best Classic Bands

Ruler

Or REULRR. Or the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, introduced into Parliament on 22 September 2022. A Bill which I was only vaguely aware of until Nicola Gooch’s excellent blog post What Truss did on my holidays: It’s much more than ‘just’ the mini budget….  (26 September 2022). 

As Nicola explains:

 “If passed, REULRR will effectively sweep away any and all EU laws that the Government hasn’t actively decided to keep.

It does this by:

  1. Repealing EU derived laws by the end of 2023. The government will be able to extend that deadline to 23 June 2026 (the tenth anniversary of the Brexit referendum) but can’t further extend it.
  2. Repealing the principle of supremacy of EU law by the end of 2023. Currently, any EU decision reached before 1 January 2021 is binding on UK courts unless the government departs from it. However, this bill will subjugate all EU law in favour of UK law by default. 
  3. Repealing directly effective EU law rights and obligations in UK law by the end of 2023; and
  4. Establishing a new priority rule requiring retained direct EU legislation to be interpreted and applied consistently with domestic legislation.

She discussed this further at our clubhouse Planning Law Unplanned session last week on the Growth Plan, which Sam Stafford has now trimmed neatly into a 50 Shades of Planning podcast:

🍎 https://t.co/BaNDFpIlfb

🎧 https://open.spotify.com/episode/0vKryknMBdUBxOdidhTX26

You will remember that the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 had the effect of retaining, post Brexit, EU-derived domestic legislation such as the regulations in relation to environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental impact and conservation of habitats, leaving it to Parliament in due course to determine the extent to which the legislation should subsequently be repealed or amended. 

As explained in the explanatory notes to the REULRR Bill:

The REUL [retained EU-derived law] framework established by EUWA, however, was not intended to be maintained indefinitely on the UK statute book and now the Government is in the position to ensure REUL can be revoked, replaced, restated, updated and removed or amended to reduce burdens.”

The Bill now places a firm deadline on that process:

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill facilitates the amendment, repeal and replacement of REUL by the end of 2023, and assimilates REUL remaining in force after that date by removing the special EU law features attached to it.”

The end of 2023 deadline can only be extended, to 23 June 2026 “should a lack of parliamentary time, or external factors, hinder progress towards reform of retained EU law prior to the 2023 sunset date.

Is this of concern?

In short, yes of course. It may be said that the Government is committed to a principle of non-regression from current environmental standards, but given the current political pinball and the lack of relevant ministers with any real experience of the sheer complexity and nuances of what they are dealing with, frankly anything is possible. Campaign groups are certainly on edge: Brexit freedoms bill’ could abolish all pesticide protections, campaigners say (Guardian, 29 September 2022).

To an extent, at a high level, the principle of non-regression is built into the trade and co-operation agreement between the UK and EU which was signed on 30 December 2020 and came into force on 1 May 2021. The UK gave various, at least theoretically, binding commitments in the agreement as to non-regression from environmental levels of protection, which I describe in my 27 December 2020 blog post Brexit & Planning: An Update.

There are also generalised commitments within the Environment Act 2021 (which of course Parliament is always of course at liberty to amend or repeal as it chooses). The Government consulted in May 2022 in relation to its draft environmental principles statement. The statement has not yet been finalised and there is not yet any duty upon ministers to take it into account in their policy making. This may not be until summer 2023 at the earliest! The Office for Environmental Protection (a body established pursuant to the 2021 Act) has criticised the statement for “a relatively limited degree of ambition”. The OEP has similarly criticised as unambitious the Government’s draft environmental targets, also consulted upon pursuant to the 2021 Act. 

As against these inchoate commitments to environmental standards, what is going to give in the face of a Government which, according to its Growth Plan, will be “disapplying legacy EU red tape where appropriate” in the investment zones it is proposing, and which proposes a Planning and Infrastructure Bill which will be:

  • reducing the burden of environmental assessments
  • reducing bureaucracy in the consultation process
  • reforming habitats and species regulations”?

Genuine improvements to the processes are certainly possible. But do we trust the Government to strike an appropriate balance, hurtling towards a self-imposed December 2023 deadline and (at the latest) 2024 general election? In the coming year, most of our environmental legislation, and planning legislation to the extent that it is intertwined, will need to be reviewed, line by line, and, given that most of it is in the form of secondary legislation (and the sheer lack of time – after all the REULRR Bill covers all EU derived legislation!), there will be relatively limited Parliamentary scrutiny of that process. Even with the best of intentions, how is this timescale even going to be possible if we are to avoid a complete bodge-up? We have been treading (often polluted) water for so long and we still have no sense whatsoever of what the long trumpeted “outcomes focused” approach will look like in practice – eg see my 2 April 2022 blog post Is the Nature Recovery Green Paper The Answer? (& If So What Was The Question?)

On a slightly different, although possibly related, note….

At 6 pm on Wednesday 5 October 2022 we will be having a discussion on Clubhouse with barrister Hashi Mohamed, around the themes of his FT article The housing crisis sits at the centre of Britain’s ills (1 October 2022, behind paywall) and his recent book A home of one’s own, a trenchant and personal look at the politics of planning and housing.

Join via this link. If you use the link to RSVP in advance (you don’t have to) you’ll get a reminder when we start – and we can get a feel for likely numbers. 

What is needed to calm the nerves all round – on planning, on housing, on environmental protection – is detail. When are we going to get it? HM Treasury announced on 26 September 2022:

Cabinet Ministers will announce further supply side growth measures in October and early November, including changes to the planning system, business regulations, childcare, immigration, agricultural productivity, and digital infrastructure.”

Always just another month or so to wait, every time.

Simon Ricketts, 1 October 2022

Personal views, et cetera

Image courtesy of Estay Lim via Unsplash

Neutrality: Government Clambers Off The Fence

Ahead of a late but welcome announcement by the Government, there was a silly headline in The Times this week: Homes crisis ‘worsened by environmental red tape’ (18 July 2022). Yes, we are back to the topic of my 16 July 2022 blog post: nutrient/water neutrality.

It’s good that this huge issue is attracting media attention – and I’ll come on to the Government announcement in a moment – but it is disappointing to see the usual “red tape” sneer.

The problem isn’t the rules or bureaucracy: we have specific areas designated of particular ecological importance and sensitivity, the integrity of some of which is under threat because of the existing levels of nutrients draining into them, from farming (eg fertilisers, animal waste) and from homes (human waste), and the integrity of others which is under threat due to the consequences of over-abstraction of water. These situations haven’t been adequately dealt with by the water companies or government agencies, meaning that even one more home being built in these catchment areas is considered by Natural England to be unacceptable without adequate mitigation in place (which can be difficult, particularly for smaller schemes). The problem isn’t the housebuilding, it’s the pre-existing precarious state of these areas.

It is a big problem, and it has been with us for a long time now (see my previous blog posts).

The Government has been waking up to the issue. Back in March 2022, DEFRA announced some support for affected local planning authorities, Nutrient pollution: reducing the impact on protected sites  (16 March 2022). But this was little comfort to those stuck in the system.

But this week we saw more wide ranging measures announced by DEFRA and DLUHC. Of course they won’t provide an immediate solution, but they are certainly welcome. 

The package of announcements comprises

These are the main measures announced by the Secretary of State:

  • In order to drive down pollution from all development in the relevant catchments, we will be tabling an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. This will place a new statutory duty on water and sewerage companies in England to upgrade wastewater treatment works to the highest technically achievable limits by 2030 in nutrient neutrality areas. Water companies will be required to undertake these upgrades in a way that tackles the dominant nutrient(s) causing pollution at a protected site. We are also using feedback from the recent ‘call for evidence’ to water companies to identify where these upgrades could be accelerated and delivered sooner.”
  • Natural England is directed to establish a nutrient mitigation scheme. “Defra and DLUHC will provide funding to pump prime the scheme: this is intended to frontload investment in mitigation projects, including wetland and woodland creation. This will then be recouped through a simple payment mechanism where developers can purchase ‘nutrient credits’ which will discharge the requirements to provide mitigation. Natural England will accredit mitigation delivered through the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme, enabling LPAs to grant planning permission for developments which have secured the necessary nutrient credits…We will announce further details in the autumn when the scheme will launch, and in the meantime, Natural England will be in touch with local authorities and developers.”
  • Longer term, we continue to progress proposals to reform the Habitats Regulations so that impacts on protected sites are tackled up front, focusing on what is best for bringing sites back into favourable status.”
  • We will make clear in planning guidance that judgements on deliverability of sites should take account of strategic mitigation schemes and the accelerated timescale for the Natural England’s mitigation schemes and immediate benefits on mitigation burdens once legislation requiring water treatment upgrades comes into force. DLUHC will revise planning guidance over the summer to reflect that sites affected by nutrient pollution forming part of housing land supply calculations are capable of being considered deliverable for the purposes of housing land supply calculations, subject to relevant evidence to demonstrate deliverability. It will be for decision takers to make judgements about impacts on delivery timescales for individual schemes in line with the National Planning Policy Framework.”

Joanna Averley’s letter goes into more detail as to how the proposed new statutory duty on water companies will help:

The majority of nutrient pollution from residential properties enters waterbodies via treated discharges from wastewater treatment works (WWTW). The performance of WWTW varies based on the limits in environmental permits issued by the Environment Agency, which in turn reflect the environmental requirements of the waterbodies to which the effluent is discharged. The performance of WWTW is therefore the central factor in the level of nutrient pollution associated with existing homes and new development. It is therefore logical that effort on reducing nutrient pollution associated with housing focusses on upgrading WWTW. The statutory obligation for upgrading WWTW, which will be introduced into the LURB, will ensure that WWTW in nutrient neutrality catchments are operating at the highest level of performance, rectifying nutrient pollution at source. This will reduce the pollution from not only new development coming forward, but also from the majority of existing dwellings in affected catchments, representing a significant decrease in overall pollution from housing.

The specific performance levels of the connected WWTW is a major variable when determining the amount of mitigation new development has to secure to achieve nutrient neutrality. Suitable mitigation measures might include constructed wetlands or land use change, which can be land intensive. Under Natural England’s Nutrient Neutrality methodology, the permit limit is used, or where there is no permit limit on nutrient discharges from WWTW, a standard precautionary figure is used (8mg/l for phosphates (P) and 27mg/l for nitrates (N)). The statutory obligation from 2030 will require WWTW to operate at the technically achievable limit (TAL); for phosphates this is 0.25mg/l and nitrates 10mg/l. This action will ameliorate nutrient pollution and significantly reduce the mitigation burden for developments.

The habitat regulations require that mitigation be secured for the lifetime of the development which Natural England consider to be 80-120 years. The obligated upgrades to WWTW required from 2030; will provide clarity from the point of the LURB measures coming into force. For developments this means that the current high level of mitigation will only be required up to the end of 2030. After 2030, the pollution levels via WWTW will be much reduced and so a lower level of mitigation will be required. This reduces the overall mitigation burden on housing developments coming forward in nutrient neutrality catchments.”

This should be welcomed (even if it is so belated and does raise questions as to whether water companies will actually be able to deliver – and at whose cost) but of course there is still the period to 2030 before these new permit limits apply and so it is important that the promised nutrient mitigation scheme is up and running as soon as possible. Housing Today have raised significant concerns on that score in their piece, Government’s nutrient mitigation scheme ‘years away’ (22 July 2022)

Finally, the ministerial statement sets out unambiguously the Government’s position as to whether the Regulations bite on reserved matters applications and applications to discharge pre-commencement conditions: “The Habitats Regulations Assessment provisions apply to any consent, permission, or other authorisation, this may include post-permission approvals; reserved matters or discharges of conditions.” Joanna Averley’s letter promises further planning practice guidance on this issue. 

In the meantime, there is no Planning Law Unplanned clubhouse event this week but I am speaking at a clubhouse event arranged by Iain Thomson of Bellona Advisors for 6pm on Monday 25 July 2022 on the subject of Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges, alongside writer Gareth Dennis and Intermodality’s Nick Gallop – join here. And for a taster of what we may cover, here’s Iain’s recent SRFIs blog post.  

Simon Ricketts, 23 July 2022

Personal views, et cetera 

18 July 2022 tweet

Summer Of LURB

What progress has there been on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill since it was introduced into the House of Commons on 11 May 2022 (see my 14 May 2022 blog post Does LURB Herald A More Zonal Approach to Planning After All?)?

The Second Reading debate was held on 8 June 2022 and I have just been reading the Hansard transcript– it wasn’t particularly edifying and I should just have relied on Nicola Gooch’s excellent summary in her 9 June 2022 blog post Tainted LURB: What can we learn from the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill’s Second Reading?

I was left feeling that the nuances of how our wretchedly complicated, but still, at some level, functional system are lost in the political chatter. Of course, these sessions aren’t “debates” as such but in large measure a long succession of disjointed interventions and special pleading. Has anyone yet coined the term NIMC? There was certainly a lot of “not in my constituency” and very little discernible appreciation of the utter reliance of this country on private sector risk-taking and funding for most new homes (regardless of tenure) and employment-generating development. How can the development of 300,000 homes a year (confirmed by Michael Gove in Select Committee on 13 June 2022 still to be the target) be remotely possible in this political and fiscal climate? So many MPs assert the case for a lower target for their particular constituency: we know what underlies the clamour against centralisation of power (a theme we’ll come back to shortly). Development is held again and again to be the culprit for failing public services, lack of infrastructure, waiting lists at GPs’ surgeries and so on – ahem, it’s new development that ends up paying for much of this – existing residents should look rather at the ways in which the Government chooses to manage and fund  the provision of health care and other services.  And if the complaint is not that new residents are overwhelming local services (not true) it’s that developers are securing permissions and then choosing not to building them out (not true, although there are certainly unnecessary delays largely caused by the clunkiness of the planning system itself: you want to amend your development proposals to reflect the inevitable market changes or regulatory requirements since you first applied for planning permission years ago? Well that’s not going to be a simple process at all my friend). (Beauty as a way to securing greater acceptance of development? Despite the Government having alighted upon that particular agenda, driving the proposals around local design codes for instance, that issue seemed to receive little airtime).

Rant over. 

The Bill entered Committee stage on 21 June 2022. The Public Bill Committee first heard evidence from various witnesses and then started line by line consideration of the Bill on 28 June 2022. They have not yet reached the planning provisions but the transcript of the discussion so far is here.

The Levelling-up, Housing and Communities Select Committee, chaired by Clive Betts MP, is holding a mini inquiry into the Bill. Michael Gove MP, Stuart Andrew MP and Simon Gallagher all gave evidence on 13 June 2022, which was slightly more illuminating. For instance, an exchange in relation to design codes from the session:

“Chair: Are we going to have the same level of consultation on the supplementary plans and design codes [as on the local plan]?

Simon Gallagher: Yes. One of the objectives of design codes is that they are locally popular, which is going to require a degree of engagement. Supplementary plans are created as one of the vehicles by which there would be opportunity for proper engagement, or legal force design codes. One of the problems with design codes at the moment is that they are often produced as supplementary planning guidance, which has no legal force.

One thing we have done in the Bill, subject to Parliament’s views, is to create something that is a legal device, a supplementary plan, which must be consulted on. Design codes must be provably popular and we are using the Office for Place to champion the best means of that community engagement.

One of the themes that has dominated discussion of the Bill has been a concern that it could lead to a centralising of power, for instance by way of the requirement that decisions should be made in accordance with national development management policies (as well as local plans), unless material considerations “strongly” indicate otherwise – thereby putting this potentially amorphous concept of national development management policies (the extent of which is for the Government to determine and which can be added to or amended by the Government with as little prior consultation as it chooses) on the same level as statutory local plans. 

Landmark Chambers barristers Paul Brown QC and Alex Shattock have created some waves with their 30 May 2022 briefing note on the provisions in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill concerning public participation in the planning system for the campaign group Rights Community Action:

“a) The Bill represents a significant change to the existing planning system. It undermines an important planning principle, the primacy of the development plan, by elevating national development management policies to the top of the planning hierarchy.

b) Unlike development plans, which are produced locally via a statutory process that involves considerable public participation, the Bill contains no obligation to allow the public to participate in the development of national development management policies.

c) The Bill also introduces two new development plan documents, spatial development strategies and supplementary plans. The Bill provides for very limited opportunities for public participation in the production of these documents.

d) The Bill introduces a new mechanism to allow the Secretary of State to grant planning permission for controversial developments, bypassing the planning system entirely. There is no right for the public to be consulted as part of this process.

e) Overall, in our view the Bill radically centralises planning decision-making and substantially erodes public participation in the planning system.”

Clive Betts pursued this theme with the witnesses on 13 June 2022:

“Chair: I am told that this is new in the way it is written into legislation. We have had very interesting legal advice from Paul Brown QC and Alex Shattock from Landmark Chambers, and it might be helpful if the Committee wrote to you with some of the questions that they have raised, which are pretty serious accusations of a centralisation that these measures are bringing about.

Michael Gove: Of course, I would be more than happy to explain the position and, indeed, any distance that these proposals place between themselves and the existing practice. I do not believe that they do significantly, but I am very happy to engage with the advice that the Committee has sought, and with others as well.

Simon Gallagher: Just to add to that, the Secretary of State referred a few minutes ago to the national planning policy framework prospectus that we were going to publish in July. We intend to set out in that how we can use these powers most effectively. That will give us the basis for proper engagement. I accept that, on the face of the Bill, it is a bit hard to read our intentions, so we need a little bit more detail and explanation out there, which will help.”

There was a further session on 20 June 2022, with evidence given by Victoria Hills RTPI), Hugh Ellis ((TCPA)and Chris Young QC. 

Clive Betts’ has subsequently written to Michael Gove asking for his response by 4 July 2022 to a number of points in the “opinion” by Paul Brown QC and Alex Shattock (NB for what it’s worth, it’s not an opinion – barristers are careful in their use of language, it’s just a briefing note). 

This month we can also expect to see the Government’s prospectus as to its intended approach to revising the NPPF as well as how it intends to draw up its national development management policies. 

We are going to be running our own discussion on Clubhouse on the “who will have the power?” question, at 6 pm on 19 July. More details soon but do join here. Indeed, if you would like to speak do let me know – we would like a diverse range of voices and views. 

I will also be speaking at the National Planning Forum event “The good, the bad and the beautiful – the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – a planning panacea?” on 5 July and hope to explore the issues a little further alongside an excellent panel of fellow speakers.

Simon Ricketts, 2 July 2022

Personal views, et cetera

Pic courtesy AARP