Construction lawyers have warned that restrictions newly imposed on developers by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act will not speed up the planning system.
Neil Bucknell, a partner at law firm Leightons, said the two key restrictions on developers under the act’s development control provisions, which came into force this Wednesday, would be counter-productive.
Local authorities now have the power to refuse duplicate planning applications from developers who are trying to wear down planners’ opposition. Councils can also reduce planning permissions from five years to three years.
The government’s aim is to prevent developers benefiting from land that increases in value after receiving planning permission but which they have no intention of developing.
However, Bucknell said it was difficult to see how the restriction of planning permission to three years would improve the system. “There is a myth that developers get permission and sit on land. The Barker report exploded that myth. The housing industry cannot afford to tie up money in this way. All that will happen on the few sites where there have been problems is that the number of planning applications will increase as people apply to extend their permissions beyond the three years and that will result in more delay in the system.”
Bucknell also expressed concern that developers would no longer be able to submit duplicate planning applications. He said: “It’s been a tactic to put pressure on slow planning authorities to put in two applications, and to lodge an appeal to determine the first one while continuing to negotiate the second. It’s been the way people have had to operate because of delays in the system.”
Housebuilders have also voiced concern about the restrictions. Nick Townsend, group legal director at housebuilder Wilson Bowden, said: “Taking away the various weapons we have to try to force planning authorities to make decisions is going to slow down the process and defeat the government’s ultimate objective. It goes back to the bad old days three or four years ago when the government had this perception that housebuilders were land hoarding.”