If you’ve been away this summer, the government’s latest requirements for planning applications may have passed you by. They aim to make developers provide more detail at outline planning stage, and inevitably will cause headaches
In August new rules came into force increasing the level of detail required for planning applications. Applications that do not comply are likely to be turned away.
The aim is to to ensure that local authorities and third parties have sufficient information on development proposals at an early stage, but I suspect that they will viewed as a further “trip hazard” by the industry.
There used to be five matters which could be “reserved” in an application for outline planning permission. This means that the details regarding “means of access”, “external appearance”, “landscaping”, “siting”, and “design” could follow once outline permission had been issued.
Now the list of reserved matters becomes: “access”, “appearance”, “landscaping”, “layout” and “scale, within the upper and lower limit for the height, width and length of each building stated in the application for planning permission”.
Where an application for planning permission is made with “layout” reserved, the application will need to state the approximate location of buildings, routes and open spaces. Where an application is made with “scale” reserved, the application for outline planning permission will need to state the upper and lower limit for the height, width and length of each building. Where “access” is reserved, the application will need to state the area or areas where access points will be situated.
Inevitably, there will be uncertainty initially as to how much detail is needed at outline stage. For example, in an application for planning permission for a major mixed-use or residential scheme, with many individual buildings proposed, how specific does an applicant need to be with regard to the proposed dimensions of each building?
This will make it more difficult to promote a scheme speculatively at outline stage
Once outline planning permission has been granted it will not be possible to secure reserved-matters approval for details that are outside the parameters given at application stage. This will make it more difficult to promote a scheme speculatively at outline stage given that the tenant’s or purchaser’s requirements can no longer be taken on board at reserved-matter stage.
In addition, all applications for building operations will need to be accompanied by a design and access statement. Residential alterations are exempt, but only if the dwelling is not in a conservation area.
The design component of the statement will need to explain the design principles and concepts applied to “amount”, “layout”, “scale”, “landscaping” and “appearance”, and will need to “demonstrate the steps taken to appraise the [physical, social, economic and policy] context of the development and how the design of the development takes that context into account”.
The access component of the statement will need to include details of consultation undertaken, how specific issues which might affect access to the development have been addressed, why the main points of access to the site and the layout of access routes within the site have been chosen and how features which ensure access to the development will be maintained.
Although developers of larger schemes would already expect to provide much of this information (though not in this specific format), for smaller scale schemes there will undoubtedly be more work required than has previously been the case – and further potential for delay as the information is collated and then additional information requested depending upon each local authority’s interpretation of the requirements.
The new requirements are contained within the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Amendment) (England) Order 2006, which gives effect to some of the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Readers will remember that this was the one that was to usher in a simpler, faster planning system.
Simon Ricketts is a partner and head of planning and environment at SJ Berwin