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Planning permission procedure

The new regulations

By John Martin
February 2010


Some months ago, Communities and Local Government (CLG) consulted on proposals intended to introduce greater flexibility into existing planning permissions, their main concern being the perceived reduced take-up of existing permissions in the current economic circumstances. Where permissions lapse, renewal applications involve cost and delay. The flow of development through the planning pipeline is held up. To counter this, CLG proposed introducing, on a temporary basis, a simple means of extending the time limits for implementation.

CLG also considered that there was an additional need to clarify and streamline the process under s73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (”the 1990 Act”) for making minor material changes to existing permissions, and a need also for added flexibility to allow developers and local planning authorities to make non-material changes to existing permissions by bringing into effect s190(2) of the Planning Act 2008 (“the 2008 Act”).

Without resort to amendments to primary legislation, the government subsequently introduced a package of measures that all came into force on 1 October 2009 (“the commencement date”) Reference needs to be had in England to the following statutory instruments:
  • The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No.2) Order 2009
  • The Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Amendment No. 3) (England) Order 2009
  • The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2009

Changes have also been made to the standard application form, and CLG has just issued practical guidance that includes a summary comparison table and a list of useful web links. (See

Extension of time limits

The application is made on the standard application form, and until the fee regulations can be amended, it will attract the same fee as a completely new application. Thereafter flat fees will be introduced. There must be an extant planning permission (full or outline) granted on or before the commencement date in respect of which the development has not been begun and the time limit for implementation has not expired.

Only one extension may be obtained. The length will be at the discretion of the local planning authority (“LPA”) subject to the existing statutory default periods. A successful application will result in a new permission for the development previously permitted, but it will be open to the LPA to impose different conditions and /or remove ones previously imposed.

Instrument 2 amends the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 (”the GDPO”) in a number of ways. It removes the requirement in article 4C to provide a design and access statement, and the requirement in article 4E to furnish plans and drawings. It also amends article 10 by removing the existing obligation to consult – save where an EIA development is involved – and by giving the local planning authority a discretion in that respect. (Clearly, an environmental statement will be required in appropriate circumstances since the application will be a new application for the purpose of the EIA Regulations.)

Associated applications can be made to extend the time limits for implementation of listed building or conservation area consent, and Instrument 3 removes the requirement in connection with these for three copies of the application form and a design and access statement to be provided.

Finally, the appeals procedure and timescales are the same as for any other planning application.

Minor material changes

The application will again be made on the standard application form, but under s73 of the 1990 Act, though this will clearly only be available if there is a relevant condition that can be amended. The present fee of £170 will be payable. There is no statutory definition of a “minor material amendment” to an existing permission but CLG approves the following:
    “A minor material amendment is one whose scale and nature results in a development which is not substantially different from the one which has been approved.”
Instrument 2 amends article 4E of the GDPO to remove the requirement to provide sufficient information to identify the planning permission that it is intended to change. (For the time being design and access statements will still be needed.) An environmental statement may be required in appropriate circumstances, since the application will be a new one for the purpose of the EIA Regulations. Subject to this, however, Article 10 of the GDPO is also amended so as to leave the LPA with a similar discretion as to whom to consult.

A successful application results in a new permission, and the existing appeal regime and timescales remain in place.

Non-material changes

Instrument 1 brings into force, inter alia, s190(2) of the 2008 Act, which inserts into the 1990 Act a new s96A. This already contains detailed provisions for making non-material changes to an existing permission. Again, the application will be made on the standard application form, and no fee will be payable until the fee regulations can be amended. (It is likely that flat fees will be introduced of £25 for householder applications and of £170 for all others.)

The application can only be made by, or on behalf of, a person who has an interest in the land in question. There is no statutory definition of “non-material”. It is for the authority to decide at the time whether the amendment qualifies. The application can cover more than one such amendment, and no design and access statement is required.

Instrument 2 inserts into the GDPO a new article 4F, which imposes notice requirements, obliges the LPA to take into account certain representations and provides for a decision notice to be issued in writing within 28 days of receipt of the application.

Finally, no new permission results but the existing appeal machinery is available and the present timescales apply.

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