914: Ten more and less controversial Planning Act 2008 reform proposals
Today’s entry suggests ten ways how the Planning Act 2008 regime could be changed.
The government has embarked on a review of the Planning Act 2008 regime and is inviting suggestions as to how it could be improved. I am not a great user of ‘listicles’, but here are ten suggestions for reforming the Planning Act 2008 regime, some more controversial than others:
- PINS should maintain a register of public body and statutory utility (electronic) contact details that those parties should be obliged to supply. Surely not controversial and significantly time and effort-saving.
- Public body and statutory utility consultees should have a duty to engage. This could be once a project is of sufficient substance eg to apply for a scoping opinion or land access powers. The government is unlikely to be doling out more money to these bodies but this should mean earlier and hence more effective engagement.
- Environmental Statements should start with a one-page summary of residual impacts following mitigation. This won’t be popular in some quarters but will greatly aid understanding of a project and incentivise minimisation of impacts. It is currently listed somewhere towards the end of each chapter for a particular topic.
- How a project will help achieve net zero (or not) should be a compulsory application document. If we’re serious about net zero then something like this ought to be given more prominence.
- Crown land should be able to be compulsorily acquired. Off with my head! It is effectively the Crown who decides whether to grant compulsory acquisition powers, which must be in the public interest, so what’s the controversy?
- All land should be registered. This one is clearly wider than just the Planning Act 2008 regime and is a government target for achievement by 2030. It would be useful in all sorts of ways, including digitalisation. About 87% of land is registered, but that last 13% is the most trouble.
- When appointing an examining authority, a shorter examination period could be set that is binding. Work fills the time available, but for smaller projects that time could be shortened from the maximum six months.
- Statements of common ground should be renamed statements of remaining points at issue and reissued periodically in the same format. That is their main function, after all. I am open to a more pronounceable acronym.
- Late submissions during examinations without justification should be given less weight. At present late submissions (whether missing a deadline or starting to engage with the process altogether) are given no less attention because of their lateness despite the disruption they cause.
- There should be a standard limited process for amending plans post-DCO, with EIA if necessary. It seems a sledgehammer to crack a nut that the whole DCO amendment process should be invoked to change a plan or two, even if doing so may have additional environmental impacts.