Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Interesting times


There has been a lot of news coming in over the past week or so which adds up to a whole raft of major changes in the way the planning system will work in future. Those of us professionally involved in the field may well regard this as ‘situation normal’; constant change has been a feature of town and country planning for as long as I can remember. However, there is little point in my repeating here news which you will no doubt have read on various websites or picked up through other news media. The objective of this blog is primarily to comment on actual changes in planning law and procedure, rather than simply regurgitating the latest press releases.

If one strips out announcements of future changes and consultation documents, it will be seen that rather less has actually happened so far, although the news this week does give us advance notice of the changes we can expect over the next two or three years. This includes a warning that application fees are set to rise again (and to be fixed by Councils locally, so we shall have to look up each Council’s fee schedule separately before submitting an application). Then there is the forthcoming demise of CABE, which is due for the chop by the end of March. The weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth has already started. Legislation will also be introduced to give councillors more freedom to express their views in advance of the determination of planning applications, but before there is too much rejoicing in town halls it should be borne in mind that some of the constraints on councillors’ conduct have been imposed by the courts rather than by the last government’s legislation.

Meanwhile, as I noted in a recent post, there are all the consequential changes which will be brought about as a result of the new Planning and Local Government Bill (yes, I know – “the Decentralisation and Localism Bill” [ugh!]), including a whole lot of subordinate legislation, policy guidance and related material which we shall have to digest over the next twelve months or more.

I expect to be concentrating in the next few weeks on getting to grips with the contents of the new Bill, now only two days away if the government keeps to its own timetable. Meanwhile, the courts continue to churn out judgments on planning cases, some of greater interest than others, and it is a continuing worry that the means by which one becomes aware of these cases is still rather ‘hit and miss’.

We do indeed live in interesting times.

© MARTIN H GOODALL

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