‘Delivery’ is the watchword for the Government when it comes to planning and development generally, housing specifically. Mechanisms for driving delivery are the main focus throughout the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and through changes to the Town and Country Planning Act.
From the 1st October, the Town and Country Planning Act will be updated making it mandatory for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to liaise with applicants over the suggested wording of pre-commencement conditions. Whilst it may not have garnered as much publicity as the revised NPPF, this legislative change is still an important shift in how the planning process operates.
These changes mean that a LPA will be required to provide an applicant with all the suggested pre-commencement conditions prior to determining an application. Applicants must be given at least 10 working days to provide a “substantive response” or written agreement to the suggested conditions. An application cannot be determined prior to, or during this timeframe.
This change is in line with the Government’s intention to speed up delivery by removing unnecessary or poorly worded pre-commencement conditions. Indeed, this change is picked up in Paragraph 55 of the new NPPF.
Potentially, great news for developers and applicants who will now hopefully be involved in the drafting of pre-commencement conditions. This should stop drafting errors, duplicates or wrong conditions being imposed on planning consents that all result in delays to delivery. It is also hoped that this will rationalise the number of pre-commencement conditions which should then save time (and money) in the long run.
There are also benefits for LPAs as it demonstrates proactive engagement with applicants, it forces a review of standard pre-commencement conditions to ensure they are still necessary, enforceable, precise and reasonable, and helps to speed up decision making. In order to prepare for this change, LPAs will need to review their standard conditions and put procedures in place to ensure that applicants are given notice of proposed pre-commencement conditions in a timely manner.
These legislative changes will now need to be factored into determination timeframes and it would be prudent of applicants to ask for conditions early (if possible) to avoid last minute delays. If you are an applicant/agent, it may also be worthwhile contacting planning officers to confirm they are aware of this change to avoid any surprises.
I for one welcome this change that will make it mandatory for pre-commencement conditions to be provided to an applicant for comment, something that has previously only been done on an ad hoc basis. However, only time will tell whether this will become another tick the box exercise or whether this will facilitate meaningful and open dialogue about the suitability of pre-commencement conditions, reduce the number of pre-commencement conditions and ultimately speed up delivery.
Link to the legislation is found here.