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Use Classes Order Call for Evidence

Date: 1/9/2011

POS & LG Group Summary Response: The Planning Officers Society (POS) and the Local Government Group (LG Group) is keen to work with the government to simplify the planningsystem to reduce delay, costs and to put local places in the driving seat. We believe that the Use Classes Order (UCO) is a very robustplanning tool that is well understood both within local government and the development industry. The current UCO provides the right balance offlexibility and certainty for developers and local communities. In this respect we would not advocate a major upheaval of the system.

The POS and LG Group are not aware of any evidence that the planning system is causing undue delay or obstruction to change of use.Evidence we have received from our members suggests that applications for change of use are overwhelmingly approved with importantconditions attached to ensure that adverse affects are mitigated and the development is both viable and sustainable.

The current system plays an important role to provide consistency and certainty to the development sector. However, in line with thegovernment's localism agenda there are instances where additional flexibility to respond to local circumstances is required. The LG Group and POS propose that the government could support councils to respond to local concerns through amendments to existing tools to make thembetter understood and more usable and through the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework. Specifically, we propose that thegovernment should seek to enact change through the following mechanisms:
  • Encouraging wider use of local development orders (LDOs) by removing the requirement to seek approval from the Secretary ofState.
  • Removing disincentives to the use of Article 4 directions by addressing the requirement for local authorities to paycompensation.
  • Encourage use of Neighbourhood Development Orders by removing unnecessary prescription involved in neighbourhoodplanning through the Localism Bill.
  • A strong policy steer in the National Planning Policy Framework to support authorities to handle change of use in line with localcircumstances.
We are concerned about the proposals to expand temporary uses to include vacant buildings because of the amenity problems many uses cancause for local residents and other businesses. This would also be likely to place an additional burden on regulatory and planning enforcementteams in local authorities. Any additional costs should be funded as a new burden. 

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