2014 – Another Year of Planning Reform
The past few years have seen a raft of changes to planning regime and 2014 seems set to continue with that trend. The matters below highlight some of the changes on the horizon.
Community Infrastructure Levy
Changes the CIL Regulations which were laid before the House of Commons in December 2013 have been superseded by revised a draft amendment to the CIL Regulations which will come into effect early this year. A snapshot of some of the changes include:
• allowing a further year (until April 2015) for local planning authorities to pool section 106 contributions;
• permitting differential rates to apply not only to uses and geographical areas but also to uses based on size of the proposed development, i.e. based on the number of dwellings or gross internal area;
• providing a new 'vacancy test' will allow CIL to be calculated based on floor space that has been in continuous use for 6 months over the last three years (instead of only 12 months);
• allowing CIL to be paid 'in kind' by way of the provision of infrastructure; and
• allowing CIL to be paid in phases for any planning permission (not just outline permissions);
• for non-phased planning permission identifying the date at which CIL liability is calculated to be the date when the permission was granted (as opposed to when pre-commencement conditions are discharged)
Rights of Light
The Law Commission is currently in the process of reviewing the response to its consultation on the rights to light which ended in May 2013. They are investigating whether the law provides a sufficient balance between the interests of landowners and the need to facilitate development. They are also considering the interrelationship of the planning system with the rights to light, and examining whether the judiciary remedies available are proportionate, reasonable and adequate.
Rights of light usually arise by long use rather than an express agreement between landowners. Such rights are rarely registered and, therefore, it is not uncommon for those burdened and benefiting from those rights to be ignorant of their existence. Since the planning system does not take into account a private right of light, the existence of such rights may interfere with the ability to develop land, even where planning permission has been granted
The anticipated publication date, if the Law Commission's project proceeds to a final report with a draft bill, is late 2014.
In July 2013 the Government introduced changes to the Judicial Review process which included a reduction in the time limit for making certain types of claim from 3 months to 6 weeks. In November 2013 consultation closed on further amendments to the Judicial review process which, among other issues, would prevent those with an 'unmeritious' interest in such a claim from exploiting the Judicial Review process to frustrate, delay or gain a commercial advantage.
The Government is now reviewing the consultation responses received relating to:
• reform of who may make a judicial review claim;
• rebalancing the structure of financial incentives to reflect proportionate interests in costs of the case;
• appeals of important cases to be heard quicker by the Supreme Court;
• creation of specialist “planning chamber” for challenges on major developments;
• dealing with minor procedural defects that would have made no difference to the overall decision;
• local authorities’ abilities to challenge nationally significant infrastructure projects; and
• the ability to provide legal aid for certain statutory challenges under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
As this forms part of the Government's objective of stimulating economic recovery and reducing burdens it would not be surprising if some these reforms came into effect sooner rather than later.