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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Planning Act 2008 / 1049: the Planning Act Blog manifesto

This week’s entry sets out some proposals for whoever wins the election to take on.

With less than a week to go until the 2024 General Election the Planning Act Blog sets out its stall for the post-election government to take up.

Efficiencies in the Planning Act 2008 regime

There is, as ever, a balance between speed and quality. Consultation seems like a natural area to target (and it seems everyone is now alive to faux cries of ‘consult more!’) but we get to the question of political feasibility (and any Government with a stonking majority might be able to push the boundaries, should one of those emerge). Any further loosening of the requirements for consultation should be accompanied by clear principles on what applicants need to do. Reducing project legal risk is not the same thing as the cultural change required in relation to consultation and enabling a proportionate examination.

We’ve long been advocates for a ‘presumptive’ period for the pre-examination period which should be a period in which deficiencies in an application can be remedied, rather than not accepting the application in the first place. That would reduce the need for projects to withdraw and re-apply.

Decision stage delays are becoming more common – why not implement a requirement to issue ‘minded to’ letters in such cases? There have been 2 ‘minded’ letters to date (Able Marine Energy, and A303 Sparkford to Ilchester). At least then all parties will know what remains in dispute!

Expand the Planning Act 2008 regime

We all love the Planning Act regime, don’t we? In which case why not see what types of development are getting routinely held up, whether through planning, land assembly or other delays that a DCO could solve, and add them to the regime? Press reports have been sent out saying that there is a desire to include data centres, but what about significant housing development? Whilst we’re at it, why don’t we remove the 500-dwelling limit in the guidance?

Changes to National Policy Statements

Everyone pledges more frequent renewal of National Policy Statements, but what about paying more attention to what goes in them? Naming more sites as suitable for development might speed up those projects as that could then not be questioned later. Requiring Examining Authorities to focus on implementable decisions, not just any decisions, might help the post-decision stage. Why not extend the ‘critical national priority’ status to other forms of development?

Require all land to be registered

There is still a fair proportion of land that is not registered and so does not appear on a Land Registry search – about 13%, according to figures I’ve seen. Why not give a date by which it must be registered or land referencing can leave it out and still claim ‘diligent inquiry’?

Crown land

It’s the 21st century, let’s remove the ban on compulsory acquisition of Crown land.

Review application documents

The list of mandatory application documents contains things that noone ever looks at and doesn’t contain things that are always asked for. Let’s review the list and match it to reality, after 13 years of examinations.

Onshore wind

The pretended unbanning of onshore wind without really doing so is not going to help achieve net zero, but full unbanning needs three steps:

  • removal of compulsory pre-application consultation for town and country applications for onshore wind (and only onshore wind);
  • reinstatement of onshore wind in the Planning Act regime; and
  • removal of footnotes adding burdens onto onshore wind in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Infrastructure Planning Zones

We’ve previously advocated for infrastructure planning zones where EIA requirements are reduced. As we noted, Spain has implemented these zones. That seems like a good idea, let’s not lose out to the (mainland) Europeans!

Judicial review

We’ve also advocated for trying to minimise repeatedly failing challenges. Our specific ideas are set out here. We’ve seen some unpersuasive arguments against these recently which appear to simply defer to existing conventions as a reason for not progressing them.

Less forgiving of late representations

While there is already the ability to disregard late representations during examinations, this is basically never enforced for fear of legal challenge. Could the ability to disregard them without good reason for their lateness be strengthened to give less weight to them?

Don’t forget to vote!

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