Following the new Conservative Government, David Cameron has announced Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells as the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This move has brought an end to the flag and bunting loving tenure of Eric Pickles MP.
The Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is responsible for a vast range of policy areas such as: housing, Local Government, planning, building regulation, race equality and decentralisation.
The appointment of Greg Clark MP signals a change in approach for the Government, from the blunt and confrontational Eric Pickles MP, to the more tactful Greg Clark MP. Eric Pickles MP had enjoyed a well publicised tenure as Secretary of State for five years. In that time there have been major shifts in planning policy such as the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Localism Act 2011. Pickles did not enjoy a good relationship with Councils and he regularly accused them of wasting time and money. Further, with the flurry of new Permitted Development rights and a vast increase in personally decided planning appeals, Pickles removed some power from the Councils; a move which was popular with applicants and developers but not with Local Government.
In contrast, Greg Clark MP has previously held a number of junior minister positions and was part of the DCLG for the introduction of the NPPF and Localism Act 2011. Clark is seen as more of a friend to Councils and will aim to devolve more power away from central Government. Further, Clark was part of the DCLG when the department increased planning fees by 15 per cent in 2010 stating, “The planning application fee is a relatively small components of the costs of any development”.
As some continuity, Brandon Lewis MP has been retained as Minister of State for Housing and Planning, having only been in the position for a year.
The Conservatives have promised increased home ownership and housebuilding, with 200,000 new homes for first-time buyers at a discounted rate. However, the party have also pledged to protect the Green Belt and utilise existing brownfield land. Therefore some are questioning if combining these two ideals is actually possible.
We expect that Greg Clark MP will bring calm to DCLG, which has been frantic in the last couple of years. Clark will aim to devolve more powers first to cities, and then we believe to other local Councils.
Additionally, we may see the following changes over the next five years:
A rise in planning fees, or controversially Clark may allow Councils to set their own fees.
The Green Belt will continue to be protected and we expect to see limited further Permitted Development changes.
At the end of the last Government, the gypsy and traveller technical consultation was completed but no action was taken. Due to Green Belt guidance, we expect that gypsy and traveller policy will be tightened.
Finally, the Government has acknowledged that the current Planning Inspectorate Appeal Process is faulting under huge pressures with the majority of appeals well exceeding the proposed six months appeal timetable; we anticipate that something will need to be done.
For planning in the countryside, a Conservative Government is welcomed at this time and the new Secretary of State has some difficult decisions ahead to address the national lack of housing supply, but also to protect our ‘green and pleasant land’.
On 26 March 2015, a new General Permitted Development Order was laid before Parliament.
Following the countless amendments to the former Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, the old provision was disjointed and needed an overhaul.
Step forward the new Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 (SI 2015/596), which replaces the previous provision as above.
The new Order 2015 contains all Permitted Development rights including house extensions, changes of use, agricultural development rights, the erection of fencing and the installation of solar panels to name but a few.
As part of the new Order 2015, the Government also released further Permitted Development changes which is exciting news for many of our clients.
Firstly the negatives, the previous loophole for practically unlimited front house extensions when the house was not facing the road has been removed. Further, Class O (formerly Class J) which allowed the change of use of office buildings to residential use has not been extended past its 30 May 2016 deadline.
More positively, the Government has slightly rearranged the controversial Class Q (formerly Class MB) agricultural building to residential change of use. Importantly to note, if the Council approves your Class Q application you now have three years from the date of the decision to complete the works. Previously, the time limit required the works to only begin within three years. Do not get caught out!
Additionally, a new provision, Class P, has been introduced allowing the change of use of storage and distribution buildings to dwellings, subject to a number of tests.
Finally, the 2013 Permitted Development rights which allowed larger house extensions has been extended to 30 May 2019. Previously, this provision was to run out next year.
These are just a small number of changes included in the new Order, however this now gives individuals more power and less red-tape than ever before in recent times.
We remind you of Harold Macmillan’s famous saying that “you have never had it so good”, and we advise house and land owners to investigate development opportunities now!