A Matter of Principle – the truth behind the New Planning and Housing Bill

Planning and Housing Bill

A recent article in The Telegraph claims that rural campaigners fear that inappropriate developments will be forced upon communities thanks to the new Planning and Housing Bill.

It states that automatic planning permission (‘planning in principle’) will be given to tens of thousands of new homes in Greenfield areas, and suggests that ministers have allowed this expansion of permission for housing schemes in a somewhat underhand manner.

It also says that rural campaigners have said that the new powers on offer will hinder council planning officers in their attempts to make sure that developments are the right size, location, design and density for the local area.

We have seen a number of similar articles over the past few weeks, and we at Apex Planning Consultants find it incredibly frustrating. They spread misinformation and raise concern within NIMBY groups and those living in affluent villages and the shires that they will be the victims of mass development, that will affect the way of life they have paid a lot of money to enjoy. Everyone seems to agree that we need more housing and that it has to be built somewhere, but by the same token, everyone seems to be against it.

What does ‘In Principle’ mean?

While the media often looks for the sensational in a story, in this case we don’t think it has really looked at what ‘in principle’ actually means.

For example, if you look at the Housing and Planning Bill, it states (under Item 102, Point 2):

(1) A development order may either—
(a) itself grant permission in principle, in relation to land in England that is allocated for development in a qualifying document (whether or not in existence when the order is made) for development of a prescribed description;

Take note of those words in bold – there is nothing underhand about this procedure – it is talking about areas that have already been earmarked for developments, and those sites will have been subject to various rounds of public consultation with stakeholders and local residents, before being assessed and duly chosen by the council.

We also need to look at the definition of a Local Development Order (LDO), which is intended to set out the detail and parameters of how a development should proceed. This is a pretty new introduction, and we are not yet entirely sure how it will fit into the grand scheme of things –will it completely replace a traditional planning application or sit alongside that process? We don’t know at this time, although what is clear is that the result is essentially the same – a development with known and agreed matters of detail.

Local Development Order

What we do know from other smaller scale LDOs that have already been created, is that its details can and will cover things such as use of a certain palette of materials, maximum height of buildings, size of gardens and number of parking spaces. It could and is likely to involve liaison with, and guidance from relevant interested third parties, such as the Highways Agency. Again, at this time, it is not clear who is going to pay for the time and resources needed for its creation – will it be the developer or the local council, or will it be a partnership? We would point out, though, that while a traditional local planning application ‘vets’ the proposed development, a LDO actually ‘sets out’ the criteria for the development to follow.

So when you next read a story about these developments, do keep in mind that a) this new measure included within the Planning and Housing Bill refers to land that has already been allocated for development, and that b) whether a development comes forward under a Local Development Order or a planning application, all plans are created in conjunction with members of the public.

If you would like to discuss how we could help you with a housing development application, or simply find out more about what we do, please browse our website or drop us a line at info@apexplanning.co.uk without obligation.