So, 2016 it is then! I wonder how many New Year’s resolutions have been made – and how many have already been broken?! One popular New Year’s resolution is to have a more positive outlook; so bearing this in mind let’s have a look at what the Planning World could have in store for us this year:
Firstly, there could be opportunities as a result of changes to the National Planning Policy Framework – for example delivering more housing or providing discounted housing on sites which can be bought and sold on the open market rather than supply of traditional affordable housing through Housing Associations. Could new towns or villages even be planned? There is certainly a strong presumption in favour of development on brownfield sites and potential to allow small schemes of up to 10 homes on windfall sites.
Could the planning process be made more efficient and speeded up if ‘alternative providers’ are allowed to handle planning applications? This follows a Government announcement to pilot competition in the processing of planning applications. Could planning applicants actually choose who processes their applications and will it lead to a reduction in planning fees?
Are we seeing a ‘lighter touch’ to planning? According to recently published planning application statistics for England, there has been a surge in bids for prior approval, and of those submitted between July and September 2015 about 80% were approved. I suspect that most of these related to commercial uses, but Berrys have recently seen positive results when looking at converting agricultural buildings to residential use. 2016 could also see an extension of permitted development rights.
Following on from this, could 2016 see a shift of planning power away from Local Authorities? This could lead to ‘permission in principal’ where sites allocated in local plans, development plan documents, neighbourhood plans or brownfield registers are granted ‘permission in principal’. It is also proposed that the Government has more powers to intervene in local plan making which could free up more development sites. Small builders should also be alert to the potential for the Government to directly commission construction of new homes on stalled brownfield sites.
There are many other opportunities we could look at but finally we also think that 2016 could be a good year for certain renewable energy projects even considering the changes to the feed in tariffs, and there also appears to still be strong demand for poultry sites. These types of development can of course go hand in hand, with the utilisation of poultry manure to produce renewable energy and the use of some of the energy produced in the power hungry poultry buildings. There is new technology and systems coming forward in these sectors which is worth keeping eye on.
Happy New Year!