18 March 2015

DCLG Confirms Planning Reforms

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has recently published its responses to recent consultations on the use of planning conditions, the consent process for national significant infrastructure projects (NSIPS) and changes to statutory consultee arrangements.

As a result DCLG has decided to amend secondary legislation so it can introduce an additional requirement for local authorities to justify the use of pre-commencement planning conditions. It has also confirmed it will reduce the time limit for fee refunds in respect of confirmation of compliance with planning conditions from 12 to eight weeks.

However, it has decided for the time being, not to go ahead with its proposal to require councils to share draft planning conditions with applicants before deciding major planning applications.

Under the regime for NSIPS, developers can ask the Government to make a single development consent order (DCO) for large infrastructure projects, removing the requirement to obtain other planning authorisations.

Under changes just announced, applicants will have the choice to include in any DCO consents which involve discharges for works purposes and trade effluents without first obtaining agreement from the relevant consenting bodies.

Similar provision would be made for obtaining European protected species licences for the construction phase of NSIPS, DCLG has said. This would take place early in the next Parliament, when a suitable legislative vehicle is identified.

The Department said that the streamlining of consents for flood defences, water abstractions, water impoundment and ground water investigation would follow between 2015 and 2017. It has not yet decided whether these consents would form part of the DCO process or the environmental permit regime.

In addition, the DCLG has now agreed changes to statutory consultee arrangements in respect of lead local flood authorities in respect of major planning applications with surface water drainage implications.

In addition, it has agreed the removal or alteration of a number of statutory consultation requirements affecting the Environment Agency.

The department has also indicated it plans to go ahead with moves to make water companies statutory consultees in respect of shale oil and gas developments. Fracking is also to be included.