Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017

As most readers will be aware by now, the Neighbourhood Planning Bill received royal assent immediately before parliament was prorogued last week. Only sections 1 to 7 are concerned with neighbourhood planning, and these provisions will not come into effect for the time being. Sections 8 to 13 deal with local development documents, and these too will have to await implementation until some time after the General Election.

The three sections that are of wider interest are sections 14, 15 and 17, together with Schedule 3. (The remainder of the Act – from section 18 onwards is all about compulsory purchase.)

Section 14 will introduce restrictions on the imposition of planning conditions, but will not come into effect until a commencement order is made. Schedule 3 to the Act will make consequential changes to existing legislation in respect of planning conditions. I have previously commented on this part of the Bill, and will revert to its provisions in a later blog post, when it takes effect.

Section 15 requires the Secretary of State to amend the GPDO “as soon as reasonably practicable after the coming into force of this section” to restrict permitted development rights currently applying to pubs and wine bars, etc., but only if they actually fall within Use Class A4. As I have pointed out before, many of these “drinking establishments” actually fall within Use Class A3 rather than A4, due to the service of food being a significant part of their business.

This section came into immediate effect on the passing of the Act, and DeCLoG has wasted no time in making the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2017 (SI 2017 No.619) on 28 April, which will come into force on 23 May. (I confess to having raised an eyebrow when I saw that this amendment order had been laid before parliament on 28 April, the day after prorogation (albeit before the dissolution of parliament today). I will comment on these provisions in a separate blog post shortly.

Section 17 has also come into immediate effect. It extends the scope of the planning register that must be maintained by LPAs. Again, I have already commented on this in a previous blog post, and I will come back to it later.

And that’s it really. Those concerned with the preparation of Neighbourhood Plans and Local Plans will want to get to grips with the sections of the Act dealing with these topics. Similarly, compulsory purchase specialists will need to get their heads around Part 2 of the Act. But this Act is hardly revolutionary in its effects, and is just another example of the endless tinkering with planning legislation in which successive governments have dabbled for far too many years.

In the meantime, the 1990 Planning Acts, together with the numerous subsequent amendments that have been made to them, remain unconsolidated, so that we now have some pretty nonsensical section numbering in the principal Act. However, I suspect the government will be occupied by far more pressing concerns in the next few years, and so I don’t hold out much hope for a consolidating Act any time soon.


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