Plan­ners turn and face the strain of changes

The lat­est changes to plan­ning rules could be good news for home­own­ers and de­vel­op­ers but is sta­bil­ity what we need? Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

PLAN­NING pol­icy changes are guar­an­teed to grab at­ten­tion and politi­cians know it.

So in a bid to get Bri­tain build­ing, boost the econ­omy and cut red tape, the gov­ern­ment wants to re­lax plan­ning rules for three years be­fore re­assess­ing the sit­u­a­tion at the end of 2015.

At first glance, the pro­pos­als ap­pear to be good news for home own­ers, de­vel­op­ers and trades­peo­ple.

Per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment rights on sin­gle storey ex­ten­sions will be dou­bled. This means you won’t need plan­ning per­mis­sion for an ex­ten­sion up to eight me­tres long on a de­tached house or six me­tres long on a ter­raced or semi-de­tached prop­erty, though build­ing reg­u­la­tions will still ap­ply.

De­vel­op­ers, mean­while, will be able to rene­go­ti­ate 106 agree­ments and plan­ners will be forced to con­sider amend­ments. Sec­tion 106 com­pels de­vel­op­ers to fund lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture such as so­cial hous­ing in re­turn for plan­ning per­mis­sion.

Many builders have found them too oner­ous and ar­gue that sites they bought in the boom are no longer fi­nan­cially vi­able, which is why the Home Builders Fed­er­a­tion has wel­comed the move to­wards le­niency.

But de­spite the fan­fare, Kathryn Jukes, of Har­ro­gate-based Direc­tions Plan­ning Con­sul­tancy, says the im­pact of the changes is likely to be min­i­mal.

“Any­one who wanted to build a big ex­ten­sion and has been re­fused will be able to take ad­van­tage of the three-year loop­hole and that could lead to some very un­happy neigh­bours,” she says.

“But I don’t think there will be a rush to build ex­ten­sions at all be­cause the real is­sue is the cost of them. Fund­ing is where the prob­lem lies for most peo­ple.”

Lack of fi­nance is also a prob­lem for house­builders but even those who can af­ford to de­velop can’t do so im­me­di­ately.

Kathryn says: “If the new rules ap­ply from De­cem­ber and they man­age to rene­go­ti­ate a 106 agree­ment then it will still take at least eight weeks for a plan­ning de­ci­sion and 20 if they are re­fused and want to ap­peal. So it will be six months to a year be­fore they can start work on site and many may choose to wait un­til eco­nomic con­di­tions im­prove.

“It’s go­ing to take a while be­fore we see any ef­fects.”

While politi­cians be­lieve a re­lax­ation of rules will speed up the plan­ning sys­tem, few in the in­dus­try con­cur.

An eight-week dead­line for de­ter­min­ing ap­pli­ca­tions was im­posed and closely mon­i­tored by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, which also ap­plied penal­ties on coun­cils that failed to com­ply.

The Coali­tion has de­cided not to check whether lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have met tar­gets and , now the stick has been re­moved, anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests that ap­pli­ca­tions are al­ready tak­ing longer to process.

That could be be­cause hard­pressed lo­cal author­ity plan­ning of­fi­cers are still get­ting to grips with the new Lo­cal­ism Act and Na­tional Plan­ning Pol­icy Frame­work.

They may soon have to con­tend with more change and a new plan­ning min­is­ter Nick Bols, who once said he be­lieves in he be­lieves in chaos and not cen­tral plan­ning.

Joe Rid­geon, chair of the Royal Town Plan­ning In­sti­tute (RTPI) North East and se­nior plan­ning con­sul­tant at Ge­orge F White, says: “I know from work­ing with plan­ning au­thor­i­ties and de­vel­op­ers, that or­gan­i­sa­tions have only just be­gun to get their heads around re­cent changes.

“What is needed now is a pe­riod of time for the new sys­tem to bed in, rather than yet more change, lead­ing to un­cer­tainty and dis­rup­tion and trig­ger­ing longer last­ing, deeper prob­lems.

“In my opin­ion, the gov­ern­ment needs to de­cide where it stands on is­sues.

“Chang­ing their mind at ev­ery given op­por­tu­nity does not help any­body and can of­ten cause more prob­lems. The last thing busi­ness needs is the un­cer­tainty that comes with end­lessly rewrit­ing plan­ning rules.”

Kathryn Jukes agrees “It’s aw­ful. Since I started my ca­reer in the 1990s, we have had three ver­sions of the Plan­ning Act. There have been so many changes re­cently that it has knocked the con­fi­dence of plan­ning of­fi­cers try­ing to make de­ci­sions..

“Ev­ery time the gov­ern­ment makes al­ter­ations it means you have to learn your job all over again.

“Un­der­stand­ably, that means de­ci­sions are slower com­ing through.”

She be­lieves that sta­bil­ity is needed as is a change of cul­ture.

“We went through a pe­riod with the last gov­ern­ment where plan­ning was re­stric­tive and more about con­trol. I’d like to see a more pos­i­tive cul­ture where the de­fault an­swer to de­vel­op­ment is ‘yes’ un­less there are very sound rea­sons why it should be ‘no’.

“I’d also like to see lo­cal au­thor­i­ties be more strate­gic and less both­ered about the de­tail.”

Use­ful Con­tacts: The Gov­ern­ment’s plan­ning por­tal in­cludes up­dates on plan­ning pol­icy and de­tails per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment and ad­vice on seek­ing plan­ning con­sent.www. plan­ning­por­

Direc­tions Plan­ning Con­sul­tancy, Har­ro­gate, www. di­rec­tion­s­plan­

PRES­TI­GIOUS AD­DRESS: Mid­dlethorpe Manor, close to the Knavesmire race­course, is one of York’s finest homes. It dates from the 1600s but most of its fea­tures are Ge­or­gian, and its own­ers have given it a fab­u­lous makeover with the help of in­te­rior de­sign­ers Plaskitt and Plaskitt.

GROWTH PLAN: The gov­ern­ment wants more new homes, like this from Miller Homes, to be built, as well as mak­ing it eas­ier to ex­tend prop­er­ties.

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