Issue

Sometimes planning decisions can take too long. This can slow down or prevent people building new homes, creating new places and bringing disused or neglected land and buildings back into productive use.

We need to ensure that the planning rules or poorly managed planning processes do not unnecessarily prevent or delay development. We want to simplify planning approval processes and make our policies and guidance simpler and easier to follow.

Actions

To speed up the planning approval process, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has:

To speed up planning for nationally significant infrastructure projects (such as wind farms or motorways) we:

  • are reforming the infrastructure planning process to make sure it remains efficient
  • want to extend the scope of the major infrastructure planning system to include new categories of commercial and business development so that, where they’re of sufficient significance, they can be determined at a national level

DCLG also carries out many ongoing actions to ensure that the planning system stays effective and up to date.

We:

  • make decisions about planning casework, compulsory purchase orders and land transaction cases through the National Planning Policy Framework
  • abolished the Infrastructure Planning Commission on 1 April 2012, so that decisions on national infrastructure proposals are now made by ministers advised by the Planning Inspectorate
  • can ‘call-in’ planning decisions and appeals to be decided by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
  • oversee and support local planning authorities’ plan-making and decision-taking functions, mainly by providing planning laws, national planning policy and guidance

Background

The Coalition Agreement set out the government’s commitment to publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities by April 2012. On 27 March 2012 the National Planning Policy Framework (the ‘Framework’) was published.

The Framework was produced following an extensive consultation with Parliament and the public. The final Framework retains all of the most important elements of the draft Framework published in July 2011, including:

  • making sure the local plan - produced by communities - is the keystone of the planning system
  • making planning much simpler and more accessible, reducing over 1,000 pages of often impenetrable jargon into around 50 pages of clearly written guidance
  • establishing a presumption in favour of sustainable development that means that development is not held up unless to approve it would be against our collective interest
  • guaranteeing strong protections for the natural and historic environment, and requiring improvements to put right some of the neglect that has taken place
  • raising design standards so that the requirements for design are the most exacting yet

Who we’ve consulted

We’ve consulted on various aspects of planning reform, including:

Bills and legislation

The Localism Act 2011 introduced a number of changes to the planning system, including transferring decisions on major infrastructure projects from the Infrastructure Planning Commission to ministers.

Further changes to the Planning Act 2008 will be introduced.

Who we are working with

Local planning authorities prepare development plans, based on consultation with local communities, which set out their overall plans for development in their area.

Local planning authorities are also responsible for development management. This includes making planning decisions, complying with the law about publicising, consulting on and determining most applications for planning permission, taking into account the opinions of local people and others.

They can also offer pre-application advice to prospective developers and enforce planning laws in their area. Appeals against refusal of planning permission and inquiries are dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate

The Planning Portal includes advice on planning permission, online applications and guidance on how the system works.

Further information on planning for major infrastructure projects can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website

Appendix 1: National Planning Policy Framework

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the government’s planning policies for England.

The Framework is an important part of the government’s reforms to make the planning system less complex and easier to understand. It vastly reduced the number of policy pages about planning.

The Framework sets out planning policies for England and how they are expected to be applied. It provides guidance for local planning authorities and decision-takers, both in drawing up plans and making decisions about planning applications.

The Framework does not contain specific waste policies, since national waste planning policy will be published as part of the National Waste Management Plan for England.

The Framework should be read in conjunction with the government’s planning policy for traveller sites. Local planning authorities preparing plans and taking decisions on waste on travellers’ sites should also take account of the policies in the Framework.

There are no specific policies for nationally significant infrastructure projects in the Framework. The Secretary of State determines these in accordance with the Planning Act 2008 and relevant national policy statements for major infrastructure, as well as any other matters that are considered both important and relevant (which may include the Framework).

Appendix 2: National Planning Casework Unit

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has set up the National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU) to manage planning decisions on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The NPCU is responsible for managing:

  • major planning applications referred to the Secretary of State in accordance with Circular 02/09: The Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009
  • requests from the Secretary of State to call in planning applications
  • requests for ‘screening directions’ for Environmental Impact Assessments, where projects may have a significant impact on the environment
  • local authority applications for listed building consent
  • notifications of applications for ‘Article 4’ directions that allow local authorities to withdraw ‘permitted development’ rights
  • all housing and planning compulsory purchase and land disposal work

The NPCU is not responsible for:

  • Local Plans – further details about how to get involved with plan preparation can be found by contacting your local council
  • individual planning applications

More information about the NPCU, including contact details, can be found in 3 planning guidance letters from 10 February 2012, 11 April 2012, and 25 September 2012.

Appendix 3: speeding up the planning process

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The government has introduced, or is introducing, a range of measures to speed up the planning process:

  • for a trial period of 3 years, we are allowing businesses and home owners to extend their premises by 6 metres without having to get planning permission
  • we have instructed the Planning Inspectorate to respond quickly to all major economic and housing-related appeals, to ensure applicants receive a response in the quickest possible time
  • we have introduced reforms to speed up the process for determining planning appeals
  • we will consult on making it faster and easier for some premises to change use without the need for planning permission
  • we have given applicants for major development a choice of applying directly to the Planning Inspectorate if the local authority has a record of making consistently slow or poor quality decisions

Planning guidance

On 6 March 2014, the government launched the new online planning guidance. This is the first time that guidance across all aspects of the planning system has been made available entirely online in an accessible way.

In October 2012, we invited Lord Taylor of Goss Moor to lead a review into the reams of planning practice guidance in existence at that time. We subsequently held a consultation on the group’s proposals, and in August 2013, we launched our proposed simplified planning practice guidance in draft, consolidating 7,000 pages of complex and often repetitive documents. On 6 March 2014, the final version of that practice guidance was launched through the planning website.

The planning practice guidance will be updated as needed and users can sign up for email alerts on any changes, or view these revisions directly on the site.

Appendix 4: ‘called in’ planning decisions and appeals

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Secretary of State has the power to take over (‘call in’) planning applications rather than letting the local authority decide. The Secretary of State will normally only do this if the application conflicts with national policy in important ways, or is nationally significant. The Secretary of State has to take published government policy into account when deciding whether or not to call in a planning application, and when making the decision.

Planning appeals can also be ‘recovered’ for decision by ministers. A recovered appeal is one where instead of an inspector making the decision, he/she will write a report, which will make a recommendation on how the appeal should be determined. This will then be passed to the Secretary of State to make the decision taking into account the inspector’s recommendation.

If the Secretary of State decides to call in a planning application, an inspector is appointed to carry out an inquiry into the proposal. The Secretary of State has to take the inspector’s findings into account when making the decision. You can see all ‘called-in’ planning decisions and recovered appeals on this site.