Planning magazine reports that there are important planning issues that remain unresolved following the Housing White Paper's publication.
- The "early 2017" deadline for councils to produce their local plans. The white paper says the government will use the criteria proposed in February 2016's Technical Consultation on Implementation of Planning Changes as a basis for any intervention decisions. Planning Officers Society Strategic Planning Subject Specialist Catriona Riddell says she has "no doubt" that the secretary of state will use the new powers on "a few test cases", pointing out that further intervention powers are set to come into force with the passing of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, expected later this spring.
- Testing out private competition in the processing of planning applications. Little detail has been announced about the pilot scheme since the original consultation. POS Board Chair Mike Kiely says the government may have realised that planning is unsuitable for competition because of its requirements for consultations, community engagement, and political decision-making.
- Introducing permitted development rights allowing the demolition of offices to create new homes. The government has been silent on bringing any further details forward. "I think once they delved into permitted development for the demolition and redevelopment of quite substantial buildings, they realised that was quite a bold ask for the General Permitted Development Order," says Kiely. "I suggested they should think about it in the context of planning permissions in principle (PPIP)." Instead of the prior approval process, Kiely says the PPIP regime, once in force, could be used to secure an upfront permission for the redevelopment of office blocks for residential use, with further details left for the technical details consent stage.
- Improving resources for local planning authorities. Planning suggests some practitioners fear that a simple fee increase may not address the underlying resourcing problems facing local authorities. "A lot of problems in the South East are not about availability of finance - they are about the availability of planners and making use of quite scarce skills and resources," says Riddell.
- Allowing housing schemes to use the development consent order regime for major infrastructure. The issue was not mentioned in the white paper. Kiely says he would have welcomed more details on the proposal, which he regards as "a good tool", providing councils lead the process.
Mike Kiely Catriona Riddell