The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 was given Royal Assent on 26th October 2023 and introduces fundamental changes to our planning system. Importantly, most of the changes will not come into force straightaway as they require secondary legislation but summarised below are our top ten things to look out for.
The scope of local plans will be limited to locally specific matters and a streamlined 30 month plan-making system will be introduced. Issues that apply in most areas will now be set out in National Development Management Policies which will have the same weight as plans. The emphasis of the National Planning Policy Framework will shift to guiding plan-making.
Commencement and Completion Notices
The Act introduces a need for applicants to submit Commencement Notices when a scheme with planning permission starts on site. The Act also makes it easier for planning authorities to issue Completion Notices to developers to require them to complete their projects with a deadline given for completion. If the deadline is not met a planning permission can be revoked. These measures are intended to address perceptions of land banking and slow build-out rates by larger developers.
Community Land Auctions
Provisions to allow councils to benefit financially from land allocations will be introduced. The amendments make temporary provision for the piloting of Community Land Auctions which will allow landowners to grant options over land, with a view to the land being allocated for development in the local plan.
The participating local planning authority will then have the power to exercise or sell the option, allowing it to capture some of the increased value that would result from allocation for development.
Authorities will be permitted to take into account the financial benefits arising from options when making decisions about the local plan.
Developers’ track record to be taken into account
The Act gives planning authorities the power to refuse to determine planning applications if the developer has a track record of building out too slowly or not implementing planning permissions.
New Section 73B route to vary planning permissions
The Act introduces a new route to vary existing permissions which can include descriptions of development but must not create a substantially different effect from the original permission.
Neighbourhood Planning to be simplified with a new neighbourhood planning tool called a Neighbourhood Priorities Statement.
Street Vote Development Orders
Residents will be able to propose development on their street and hold a vote on whether planning permission should be granted.
Abolition of the 4 year rule for breaches of planning control
The ‘4 year rule’ has previously provided property and land owners with immunity from planning enforcement action for unauthorised building, engineering, mining or other operations and for the change of use of buildings to residential use. The 4 year period is to be extended so that all breaches of planning control can only become immune from enforcement action after 10 years. This takes effect from 26th December 2023. Planning authorities will be able to issue an Enforcement Warning Notice as a pre-step before enforcement proceedings. This will stop the clock where a breach of planning is discovered.
Planning Application fees to increase
Planning fees for major and minor applications are to be increased by 35% and 25% respectively, subject to consultation. Powers are also to be brought forward to enable developers and promoters to be charged for statutory consultee advice in certain circumstances.
A new Infrastructure Levy is being introduced which will replace the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 agreements. The Infrastructure Levy will set rates tailored to local circumstances and will incorporate affordable housing contributions.
The measures set out in the Act are intended to support the Government’s objectives of delivering new housing and infrastructure more quickly by making the planning system more efficient. However, the effectiveness and mechanics of these new provisions will be dependent upon a raft of technical consultations, secondary legislation and an update to the national planning policy framework all of which will take time. With a general election looming the Government may run out of time to implement many of these measures. Key issues about resources and funding of the planning system also remain unaddressed.