Wednesday, 2 January 2019

An even more interesting New Year

I hesitate to wish readers a ‘Happy’ New Year, because if Brexit actually happens, it is not going to be at all happy. But I have a sneaking feeling (or is it just hopeless optimism?) that the UK will not in fact leave the EU on 29 March. 2019 might, just might, be the year in which Brexit gets buried once and for all. There’s certainly going to be a lot of political excitement in the next three months, and I suspect the Brexit debate will go on and on, long after that.

It is now clear that all government departments have effectively put most other work on the back burner, and have been ordered by 10, Downing Street to concentrate exclusively on Brexit for the next few months. In the meantime, however, MHCLG will still have to make an amendment order to the GPDO in time to make Class P (residential conversion from B8) in Part 3 of the Second Schedule permanent before the present time limit for that Class of PD runs out.

Apart from that, the major priority will no doubt be to conduct an urgent audit of paper clips and teaspoons throughout the Ministry, and to stock up with teabags and sugar in good time before D-Day (Disaster-Day). There is also the minor consideration of having to deal with all the planning issues that arise from the construction of massive lorry parks, new port facilities, massively expanded warehouse accommodation and other infrastructure required in order to prepare for a No-Deal Brexit – hardly any of which will in fact be ready in time. In practice, the threat of a No-deal ‘car crash’ Brexit lacks any credibility, and nobody (apart from a few head-bangers on the far right of the Tory Party) takes it at all seriously. It is simply a rather hopeless ploy on the part of the Prime Minister to try to scare back-benchers into voting for her botched ‘deal’ when (or if) it comes back to the Commons this month. A much more likely scenario, after the inevitable rejection of the draft withdrawal agreement by MPs, is the revocation of our Article 50 notification, in order to stop the clock, and so avoid a disastrous high jump from Beachy Head on 29 March.

[In the meantime, there has been some loose talk of ‘postponing’ Article 50. This (as opposed to outright revocation of the Article 50 letter) would require the agreement of the EU, and there are already indications that they would only be prepared to allow an extension of time if it were required in order to hold a Referendum or a General Election. A bid simply to gain two or three months for further political in-fighting is not going to be agreed by the EU, and will not in any event solve the political impasse in the Commons.]

So whatever else might happen on the planning front this year will, I fear, depend on how the Brexit process plays out. In the meantime, those who are thoroughly fed up with the whole subject will simply have to grit their teeth, and wait for it to blow over. At least by the end of March we should have some idea of where we might then be heading.



  1. Of course, it's even closer before the time restrictions on Part 1 Class A developments end. Approved single storey rear extensions have to be approved and the LA notified as such, by 30th May. Someone who submits an application today will receive their decision notice by 20th March. They then have just over two months, as it stands, to find a builder who can complete the work by 30th May. Of course, the government's consultation document published in October 2018 indicated that they would look to make the legislation permanent, but there's no sign of a SI. Which is a whole heap of fun for those of us who have to explain the situation to potential applicants...

    1. I was discussing exactly this point with a planning officer yesterday.

      If previous practice s anything to go by, an amendment order is likely to be made just in time to come into effect on 6 April, followed by a deep sigh of relief on the part of those wanting to build larger domestic extensions under Part 1, and those hoping to carry out the residential conversion of a building currently in B8 (storage) use, under Class P of Part 3.

      As noted before, there seems to be no proposal at present to extend or remove the 2020 deadline for the residential conversion of a building currently in B1(c) (light industrial) use, under Class PA.

  2. I accidentally deleted the following comment, when I had meant to publish it (!)

    Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "An even more interesting New Year":

    And still we wait...James Brokenshire made a ministerial statement on 13th March, in which he reiterated that the government would be making permanent the currently temporary legislation for larger domestic extensions. Given that the House of Commons is not sitting again until 23rd April, am I correct in assuming that if they don't lay the SI between 24th April and 2nd May, then this legislation will lapse? (I assume that it has to be published 28 days before coming into effect)

    1. I was under the impression that SIs had to be laid when the House of Commons is sitting, but I am not so sure that this is the case nowadays. They also seem to come into effect in some cases almost immediately after they have been laid, when they could not reasonably have been considered by MPs. I confess, however, that I am out of touch with the current legal and parliamentary requirements in this regard.

      The continuing delay in the case of the expected GPDO amendment order is, however, extremely frustrating, especially since it seems now that Class P may not be extended, as was previously proposed.