Uncertainty caused in equal measure by successive Governments has stalled the development plan system. The new development plan system is however now being embraced by local councils at some pace. The latest delay relating to the abolition (or not) of Regional Spatial Strategies (“RSS”) has been resolved. With the passing of the Localism Act, the abolition of RSS is now expected shortly. At the same time the Government is proceeding with the Community Infrastructure Levy (“CIL”). As if a ‘carrot’ to local authorities to set up such a levy was not enough, there is also a ‘stick’ because after 6 April 2014 local authorities will not be able to enter into more than five or more separate planning obligations which provide (in relation to the grant of planning permission) for the funding of an infrastructure project or type of infrastructure. Finally the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”), for the most part a succinct summary of previous guidance, is likely to give developers a fillip given the new presumption in favour of sustainable development.
The effect of all these ‘changes’ is that planning authorities will want to make swift progress with the publication of Core Strategies and Site Allocation Development Plan Documents in order for them to plan for development and understand what infrastructure will be required in order to bring forward those allocations and to set the appropriate “levy” upon those types of development.
In many ways the system is not very “new”. The Plan still comprises a set of policies (the Core Strategy) and what were local plan allocations now simply known as Site Allocation Development Plan Documents.
As ever however it is critically important to submit sites with development potential to the council for consideration and to work with the local authority to secure an allocation. If not, it remains the case that it is difficult to secure any real changes once the Plan has been published. Landowners would therefore be very well advised not to “miss the boat”. Development plans have historically only been reviewed every ten to fifteen years.