Last week the UK Government published its long-awaited proposals for reform of the planning system in England and Wales, in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill.

Back in June 2020, radical reforms to the planning system were proposed, including introducing zoning and deemed planning permission in designated growth areas.  Despite the abandonment of these far-reaching reforms, the proposals set out in the Bill, are significant.  The main changes are as follows.

Central Government will take a much greater role in planning

This will be achieved by the introduction of a new suite of National Development Management Policies which will set out generic planning policies applicable across the country.  Local Plans will be expected to restrict themselves to purely local issues.  The expectation is that this will provide greater consistency in decision-making and help with the speedy production of up-to-date Local Plans.  This is backed by a new statutory provision to the effect that applications are to be determined in accordance with the Local Plan and National Development Management Policies and if there is a conflict between the two, national policies will prevail.

This is a significant cultural shift from the position to date under which locally-determined policies should prevail.  There is also some scepticism about the production of a whole new suite of national policies: is this a return to the days of PPGs which were swept away on the grounds that these were too unwieldy and bureaucratic?

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