Budget 2014

by Chris Peacock

George Osborne delivered the 2014 Budget on Wednesday 19th March. Having sifted through the headline grabbing cuts to beer and bingo duty, I have evaluated the implications for the planning system that are set out in the full Budget Report that supports the speech made in the Commons.

Firstly, Osborne claimed that as a result of government reforms to date, planning approvals and housing starts are at a 5 year high, and housing activity recently expanded at its fastest rate for 10 years. Although the information on housing stats is correct for the past 5 years, these rates have been at an historic low during this period and rates are low compared with any period since the 1920s. Clearly, more needs to be done to stimulate housing delivery and Osborne has attempted this with announcements in relation to the extension of the Help to Buy scheme, a £500m fund to support small volume house builders and £150m to support self-build projects. Along with several other initiatives announced, including a new
Garden City, the Chancellor expects these instruments to deliver 200,000 new homes.

In an announcement of potentially significant interest to planners and developers, the Budget Report states that the government will review the General Permitted Development Order. The revised approach is to be based on a three-tier system to decide the appropriate level of planning permission: using permitted development rights for small-scale changes, prior approval rights for development requiring consideration of specific issues, and planning permission for the largest scale development.

Depending on the outcome of the review, this could have far reaching implications for the planning process as we know it. The definitions of what constitutes ‘development requiring consideration of specific issues’ and ‘largest scale development’ could essentially dictate whether planning permission is required for certain development at all; the implication being that only prior notification to the council (similar to the current process for demolition) may be sufficient for uncontentious
development that does not fall into the ‘largest scale development’ category. We will wait with bated breath to see how this one plays out.

The Report goes on to state that the government will consult on specific change of use measures, including greater flexibilities for change to residential use (such as from warehousing and light industrial units) and allowing businesses greater flexibility to
expand facilities such as car parks and loading bays within existing boundaries, where there is little impact on local communities.

This follows hot on the heels of the permitted change of use from office to residential that has taken off in certain parts of the country where it has proven viable (notably London – see the previous blog on this particular subject). The costs and feasibility of conversion of industrial to residential will no doubt influence the take up of this opportunity but the principle is one that would be welcomed by industrial landlords but could offer increased competition for housing supply numbers with traditional residential developers. The concept would also appear to reinforce the renewed push for re-use of land set out in the recently published Planning Practice Guidance.

Posted by Chris Sinton

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Published: 20/03/2014


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