DLUHC Chief Planner Policy and Delivery Updates for April 2024

by Akeem Iginla

Biodiversity Net Gain on Small Sites – The regulations required to implement the first phase of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) were laid in Parliament on 19 January. BNG became mandatory for new applications for major development from Monday 12 February 2024. As of 2 April, BNG has also now became mandatory for new applications for nonmajor development following the lapse of the temporary exemption for non-major development. A non-major development does not fall into the category of a major development, as defined in article 2(1) of The Town and Country Planning Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015. This will subsequently increase the volume of new planning applications that will now be subject to BNG. Hence, all LPAs’ are advised to prepare for this change, particularly in relation to their validation services.

There are still some significant exemptions to BNG that allows certain permission such as householder development and development which only has de minimis impact on habitats not to be subject to biodiversity net gain conditions. These full list of exemptions are listed in The Biodiversity Net Gain Practice Guidance.

Planning Policy Update – “An Accelerated Planning System” was published by DLUHC on 6 March 2024 which seek views on proposals to:

  • Introduce a new accelerated planning service for major commercial applications with a decision time in 10 weeks and a fee refund if this is not met;
  • Make changes to the use of extension to time agreements and changes to the performance regime to monitor speed of decision-making against statutory time periods;
  • Expand the current simplified appeals process for householder and minor commercial appeals to more written representation appeals; and
  • Implement section 73B for applications to vary planning permissions and the treatment of overlapping planning permissions.

The DLUHC will receive views from all interested parties and consultation closes at 11.59pm on 1 May 2024.

Draft Planning Performance Dashboard – The DLUHC also published a new draft Planning Performance Dashboard on 6 March 2024. This brings together performance data for individual local planning authorities for speed of decision-making. The table provides data on the percentage of applications determined within statutory timeframes and the use of Extension of Time agreements.

Planning Inspectorate Appeals Casework – The DLUHC also stated that as from 1 April 2024 comments from interested parties on planning and enforcement appeals will only be accepted through the Appeals Casework Portal (ACP). And would no longer accept comments via email. PINS’ case officers will henceforth ask LPAs to re-issue any appeal notifications where the method of making representations to the Planning Inspectorate is not correctly set out.

Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund Round 2 – The DLUHC referred to 2023 Spring Budget and Autumn Statement where the Government had committed £110m to affected LPAs to deliver high quality, locally-led nutrient mitigation schemes. This is to boost mitigation supply available to support sustainable development and unlock housing delivery in affected Habitat Site catchments. The DLUHC Newsletter further stated that the first Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund funding round had been allocated to eightt successful local authorities in December 2023.

The Government had also opened Round 2 of the Nutrient Mitigation Fund on 6 March 2024 and are inviting the LPAs affected by nutrient neutrality advice to submit expressions of interest, via a template for costed programmes or strategies to deliver nutrient mitigation. DLUHC are also requesting capital bids of up to £10 millions (from a single catchment or area where two catchments overlap). Whilst affected LPAs were advised to submit proposals by 26 April 2024.

More details can be found here..

Compulsory Purchase Orders: Publication of Register of Decisions – The DLUHC had published a register of decisions on 21 March 2024 on all Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) in England submitted to the Department for confirmation since 2019. Th Department noted that the intention behind publishing the register is to increase transparency around how decisions are taken, and to improve knowledge and awareness of the purposes for which compulsory purchase powers may be used and they hoped that this will give local authorities greater confidence to use their CPO powers and help clarify misconceptions regarding the CPO process. DLUHC will update the register on a quarterly basis as it is the first iteration of the register and work is already underway on the next iteration that will include copies of the decisions.

Pathways to Planning Graduate Scheme – The funded new graduate programme and delivered by the Local Government Association in conjunction with the Planning Advisory Service, is inviting Councils to take part in its second cohort.

Pathways to Planning operates a national marketing and recruitment campaign at no cost to local planning authorities, attracting top graduate talent to work in their planning teams. Each graduate place comes with a choice of bursary: councils can choose either a bursary of £10,000 to help fund graduates’ RTPI-accredited master’s degree (which they undertake part time, while in work), or a bursary of £5,000 to support a Level 7 apprenticeship; depending on which route best serves the local authority.

According to DLUHC, there are other benefits of the programme which includes, a bespoke learning and development programme, ongoing professional support and fast-track opportunities to retain talent in the sector. There are up to 120 spaces available for the programme’s second cohort, which will see graduates start work in September 2024. The Department encourage Councils to sign up as soon as possible to secure their place by visiting the LGA’s website or by contacting Assistant Programme Manager Anna Buttenshaw (Anna.Buttenshaw@local.gov.uk) to express your interest and request further information.

Consultation Outcome: Operation Reforms to the Nationally significant infrastructure Project Consenting Process – The DLUHC published their response to theconsultation on operation reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) consenting process alongside the Spring Budget of 6 of March 2024. The consultation ran for eight weeks from 25 July to 19 September 2023, where DLUHC had invited views on proposed reforms to make the NSIP consenting process better, faster, greener, fairer and more resilient by 2025. These included: (1) operational reform to support a faster consenting process; (2) recognising the role of local communities and strengthening engagement; and (3) improving system capability and building a more diverse and resilient resourcing model.

Following careful consideration of the responses that were received, the consultation response confirms that DLUHC are taking forward a number of improvements, enabled by legislation and guidance. These include:

• A major increase to the capacity within the planning system by better resourcing public bodies through costs recovery for the advice and services they give to applicants – with additional resources in place already and cost recovery being introduced on 1 April 2024;

• New secondary legislation to make vital changes to the legislative framework under which the system operates, covering the way in which examinations are conducted to support faster and more proportionate examinations for all projects. This will be in place by the end of April 2024;

• Improvements to and strengthening of national infrastructure planning guidance to provide clarity for applicants and ensure that all users of the system are provided with the guidance they need to maximise the benefits of the system changes, and to help navigate applications more efficiently. This will be live by the end of April 2024;

• A new pre-application process, designed to allow applicants to work with the Planning Inspectorate to speed up decision making and ensure that consultation is effective and proportionate. This will be available for any project which requests it from this Autumn on a cost recovery basis; and

• A new fast-track route to consent, to enable projects which meet a quality standard to progress through the process in one year. This will be available from Autumn 2024. DLUHC have recently laid legislation which took effect from 1 April 2024, and published draft guidance on cost recovery for the Planning Inspectorate and statutory consultees. The DLUHC stated that further guidance updates will be published throughout the remainder of the year, starting from the end of April. For further questions regarding the changes being made to the NSIP Consenting Process, pleas email infrastructureplanning@levellingup.gov.uk.

Public Land for Housing article

Implementation of Enforcement Measures in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2003 – The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (the 2023 Act) had introduced a package of measures to strengthen local planning authorities’ enforcement powers. On 4 April, The DLUHC laid a statutory instrument, The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2024 to make consequential amendments needed to give full effect to two of the reforms – listed building temporary stop notices and enforcement warning notices. The instrument also makes consequential changes to The Building Safety (Responsible Actors Scheme and Prohibitions) Regulations 2023 to take account of the enforcement measures. In addition, it revokes The Town and Country Planning (Pre-application Consultation) Order 2020 which extended the temporary provisions relating to pre-application consultation in respect of planning permission set out in sections 61W to 61Y of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as these have subsequently been made permanent by the 2023 Act. A further statutory instrument, The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024 sets out the commencement and transitional arrangements for the enforcement measures and other measures in the 2023 Act.

Office for Place Update: Free Places at 2024 Code Schools – The DLUHC stated that the Office for Place is supporting Urban Design Learning to run two Code Schools later in the year. This will provide 100 free places to local planning authority officers, suitable for those who are currently working on design codes or looking to start working on one. Delivered entirely online, and lasting for five days spread over two weeks, the Schools will draw on lessons learnt from the design code Pathfinder programme, other design codes local planning authorities have been working on, and emerging best practice. Alongside hearing from a wide range of expert speakers, delegates will also have access to a team of experienced mentors to provide personalised support, peer to peer learning opportunities and a school bag of pre-recorded talks and other resources.

Telegraph Pole Deployment by Fixed-line Telecommunications Operations – The DLUHC raised concerns about inappropriate sitting of some poles and made reference to the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003, that states ‘operations must still notify the local planning authority at least 28 days in advance of their intention to deploy certain infrastructure, including poles. The local planning authority can then suggest conditions with which they wish the operator to comply in relation to the installation of apparatus. The regulations also impose a number of other requirements on operators. This allows local planning authorities to suggest conditions to ensure that telegraph poles are placed sensitively, minimising any impact on communities.

Local planning authorities can contact Ofcom, the independent regulator, to express concern about the conduct of a code operator. Ofcom will investigate reports if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an operator has failed to comply with regulations. The Government encourages local planning authorities to raise a complaint if they believe a code operator has failed to comply.

To do so, they can contact Ofcom at Competition.Complain@ofcom.org.uk, outlining their concerns in as much detail as possible to enable Ofcom to consider the matter.

Ofcom have also published a general advice document https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/102514/Advice-forcomplainants.pdf.

Share With Friends