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The Neighbourhood Planning Bill 2016-17 (Bill 61), was published and had its First Reading on 7 September 2016. The Bill’s Second Reading is scheduled for 10 October 2016.

The text of the Bill and the explanatory notes are available from the Neighbourhood Planning Bill pages on the Parliament website. A table setting out the territorial extent and application of each clause is given at page 16 of the explanatory notes.

The Government’s two “key aims” of the Bill are to:

  • help identify and free up more land to build homes on to give communities as much certainty as possible about where and when development will take place; and
  • speed up the delivery of new homes, in particular by reducing the time it takes to get from planning permission being granted to building work happening on site and new homes being delivered.

The Bill was first announced in the May 2016 Queen’s Speech as what was initially called a “Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill”. The Background Briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech indicated that it would include provisions to put the National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory footing and to enable the privatisation of Land Registry. These two provisions have not been included in the Bill. The Government has indicated that following the July 2016 cabinet reshuffle, the new Ministers would like to consider further these proposals.

On neighbourhood planning the Bill introduces a new procedure to allow neighbourhood plans to be modified. It also deals with the situation of where a new neighbourhood plan is needed, but covering a slightly different geographical area to the previous one. This part of the Bill is also the subject of an open consultation, Implementation of neighbourhood planning provisions in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.

The Bill provides that pre-commencement planning conditions can only be used by local planning authorities where they have the written agreement of the developer. If the developer does not agree to the pre-commencement condition then the local authority has the option to refuse the planning permission. These provisions are also the subject of a Government Open consultation: Improving the use of planning conditions.

Measures are also included in relation to compulsory purchase powers. It introduces powers allowing the temporary possession of land and a duty to provide compensation for it. It aims to clarify case law on the definition of what is meant by a “no-scheme world” for the assessment of compensation. A time limit is set in the Bill for an acquiring authority to issue a compulsory purchase confirmation notice. The Bill also provides for Transport for London and the Greater London Authority to be able to acquire land through compulsory purchase on behalf of each other for mixed-use transport, housing and regeneration purposes. Consultation on these provisions concluded earlier in the year.

While the Bill has been broadly welcomed by planning professionals, lawyers and the building industry, some commentators have called it “uninspiring” and have questioned whether it will meaningfully increase the supply of homes. The provisions on pre-commencement planning conditions have so far attracted the most comment, including concern about reduced environmental and archaeological protections, which the Government has sought to allay.

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