Welcome to 2021*. Whilst I am hopeful that the coming year will be an improvement on 2020, it certainly doesn't look like being any less eventful - at least in the short term. 

With our departure from the EU having the potential to impact on environmental protections, and the Government response to the Planning for the Future White Paper still pending, 2021 is likely to bring yet more change to the wonderful world of planning.**

Whilst it is too early to predict the rate of change that the coming year will bring; it is perhaps note-worthy that even the three working days between Christmas and New Year (which are usually very quiet) have been marked by further legislative and policy amendments. 

Below is a link to an excellent Planning Resource Article which lists seventeen important events that occurred over the Christmas break. This post just deals with three: 

  •  A New Prior Approval Requirement for Some Part 20 PD Rights

On 30 December, the Government introduced a new prior approval requirement for applications made under Class A and Class AA of Part 20, Schedule 2 of the GDPO.  These are the rights that allowed developers to add new storeys onto detached purpose built blocks of flats or detached commercial or mixed use buildings, for the purpose of creating new residential dwellings. 

From 30 December any applications made under Part 20 Class A or Class AA which relate to an existing building that is over 18 metres tall will have to be accompanied by a report from a qualified chartered engineer (or other competent professional) certifying that the external walls of the existing building have been constructed in a way that complies with Para B4(1) of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2010.  This is the part of the Building Regulations which deal with fire safety concerns. 

Any application made after 30 December which is not accompanied by a satisfactory report will have to be refused out of hand. 

The provision only applies to applications that have been made after 30 December, so applications for prior approval submitted before Christmas will be exempt. 

According to the accompanying guidance letter, Councils are not expected to scrutinise the reports in detail. They are, however, expected to take reasonable steps to check that there are no reasons to doubt the conclusions of the reports, and that they have been prepared by suitably qualified professionals. 

  • Likely time-table for responses to the Autumn 'White Paper' Consultations.

The other big news comes from a letter sent out by the Chief Planner on 18 December, which can be read in full here.  The letter sets out the likely time-table for the Government's responses to both the Planning for the Future White Paper and the remaining sections of the technical consultation that was published at the same time.  Changes to the standard methodology for housing land supply were published before Christmas. 

The letter states that: 

"The government will publish a response in the Spring setting out its decisions on the proposed way forward including preparing for legislation, should the government so decide, in the Autumn. Initial work will focus on developing the next level of policy detail, having considered the inputs received."

Before going on to urge local authorities not to slow down their local plan preparation in response to the upcoming reforms. 

Given the initial changes will be to policy, and presumably further consultations on the technical details of those policy changes, it is likely that the 'technical consultation' proposals will come forward first. These included provisions to raise the threshold for sites exempt from Affordable Housing provisions from 10 units to 40 or 50 units, extending permission in principle provision to major developments and securing First Homes as  a mandatory proportion of a council's affordable housing requirement. 

  •  Changes to Waste Guidance 

As I am not the environmental expert in our team,*! this last point is going to be dealt with extremely briefly! On 29 December 2020, the Government changed its guidance on waste treatment and management –  moving the goal posts on when something is no longer classified as waste. 

If you have any questions about the changes in the guidance or how they may impact you, please contact Claire Petricca-Riding. Claire is the firm’s resident environmental expert and has the distinct advantage of actually having read both the previous and revised versions!

Finally, a quick note to all of those readers who have found themselves home schooling today on less than 12 hours notice. I am sorry; this whole situation is incredibly difficult.  Whilst there is probably very little I can do to make the transition any easier - please do let me know if I can help at all. Even if that help is limited to blogging about specific topics that you don't have time to look into - or answering the occasional ad hoc query.  

This is not the start to the year that I had hoped for, but Planners are nothing if not resilient. There are better times ahead, and I am sure that we can reach them together. Stay safe everyone, and here is to a Happier and Healthier 2021!

* I was going to start with 'Happy New Year', but I am writing this post whilst listening to our Prime Minister announce a third national lockdown, so it doesn't really feel appropriate right now.  

** and environmental 

*! that would be Claire Petricca-Riding