New proposals for planning reform and support towards the UK's renewable energy infrastructure

8 minute read
07 March 2023


The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities launched two new consultations last week: The first sets out proposals to increase planning fees and improve the capacity and performance of local planning authorities. The second focuses on proposals to change permitted development rights to support, among other things, the UK's renewable energy infrastructure.

In this article, we explore the key points covered under each proposal, how these will affect organisations engaging with local planning authorities and what will happen next.

Proposed changes to planning fees

The changes proposed by the consultation are intended to support local planning authorities by ensuring they have the necessary resources to deliver a service that meets the ambitions for planning reform. In particular, the consultation proposes changes to planning fees from Summer 2023 so that they better meet the costs incurred in delivering a high-quality and timely planning service. The proposed changes include:

  • Increasing planning application fees for major applications by 35% and for all other applications by 25%.
  • Providing for all planning application fees to be adjusted annually in line with inflation.
  • A new fee structure for variations to planning permissions that takes into account changes proposed by the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
  • Doubling the fees for retrospective applications in order to discourage unauthorised development.
  • Removing the 'free-go' or introduction of a reduced fee for repeat applications.

The proposed changes would apply to England only.

Recognising that improvements to the planning service cannot be delivered through more money alone, the consultation also proposes:

  • Working with the planning and development sector to design and deliver a programme of support for building planning capacity and capability within local planning authorities. This is in response to feedback received from all sectors that the core planning service is consistently underperforming and, in particular, recognises the issues faced by local planning authorities in trying to recruit and retain enough staff.
  • A new approach to how the performance of local planning authorities is measured to provide greater transparency of service delivery, plus earlier and more targeted support to local planning authorities where needed. This would include providing for refund of the planning application fee where an application subject to an eight-week determination period is not determined within 16-weeks, rather than the current 26-weeks.

Further details of the "Technical consultation: Stronger performance of local planning authorities supported through an increase in planning fees" can be found under the open consultations on the web page. This sets out the scope of the consultation and how to respond before the closing date of 25 April 2023.

Proposed changes to permitted development rights

The consultation is seeking views on proposals to amend the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 as follows:

  • Changes to existing permitted development rights relating to the installation of solar equipment on and within the curtilages of existing domestic and non-domestic buildings to support delivery of the British Energy Security Strategy. Proposals include relaxing restrictions to enable solar panels to be provided on domestic flat roofs and on the wall of a domestic property, which fronts a highway in a conservation area. This will provide further flexibility to allow standalone solar within domestic curtilages in conservation areas. The proposals also allow for increasing the limit on electricity generation from solar panels on non-domestic buildings, therefore providing greater flexibility for solar panels on non-domestic buildings on land in designated areas (for example, conservation areas, national parks etc.).
  • A new permitted development right to allow, subject to certain conditions and prior approval, solar canopies of up to four metres in height on non-domestic, ground-level, off-street car parks. Examples including car parks in supermarkets and retail parks, enabling the utilisation of existing land uses and reducing the need for solar panels on greenfield sites.
  • Changes to existing permitted development rights to allow certain forms of development to be undertaken by local authorities (or those authorised by them) to allow local authorities greater flexibility to deliver local infrastructure in their area. This would include the installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging points to support the rollout of EV charging points, as set out in the UK Government's Net Zero Strategy.
  • Changes to existing permitted development rights to support film-making – including allowing buildings or land to be temporarily used for film-making for a longer period – and to increase the maximum area of land and height of temporary structures that can be used.
  • A new permitted development right to support temporary recreational campsites, including camping sites and related moveable structures, to support the increased demand for domestic holidays and the local tourism industry. The scale and period of use is proposed to be restricted and prior approval may be required in certain instances (for example, where the campsite is in an area of flood risk).

The proposed changes would apply to England only.

Further details, of the "Permitted development rights: Supporting temporary recreational campsites, renewable energy and film-making consultation", can be found on the web page, including how to respond by 25 April 2023.

What do businesses need to consider?

The Government has indicated that the proposed changes to planning fees could be introduced as early as Summer 2023 so developers and landowners should start to allow for these as they work up any new applications, and/or aim to submit any new applications before the increases take effect. It is unlikely, however, that improvements to the planning service will happen as quickly and it could be sometime yet before the reform needed to deliver the planning service industry's needs is achieved.

It is unclear when or if the proposed changes to permitted development rights will be introduced. If they go ahead, however, they offer owners of domestic and non-domestic property the opportunity to become more sustainable and/or to generate income from their land. The proposal to permit solar canopies, in particular, has the potential to have wide application and deliver significant benefits to businesses with car parks that meet the criteria.

What will happen next?

Both consultations run for eight weeks from 28 February to 25 April 2023, following which the Government is expected to publish its response, before taking steps to introduce the proposed changes.

If you'd like to discuss any of the points here further, please contact Toni Weston.

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