LGA submission to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Supporting Housing Delivery and Public Service Infrastructure

About the Local Government Association

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically-led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.

Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

Summary

  • Councils want to be able to create great communities and support local involvement in designing, planning and creating great places for current and future generations. To succeed in meeting these challenges the planning system needs to be transparent, fit for purpose, and accessible to all.
     
  • The proposals for new permitted development rights (PDR) in this consultation do not support the Government’s aspirations outlined in the Planning White Paper. Those aspirations, which we share, include greater democratic accountability and transparency, tackling climate change, improving biodiversity, protecting our heritage, planning for beautiful and sustainable places, and developing the necessary and high-quality infrastructure and affordable homes we need. 
     
  • The Government has not yet had the opportunity to respond to submissions to the Planning White Paper. These should be considered before this or any other proposals are taken forward.
     
  • Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of Government is understandably focused on the economic recovery of local areas around the country. However, extending PDR now may lead to unintended and irreversible consequences, undermining an area’s decisions and long-term strategy for growth, as agreed through their Local Plan.
     
  • These proposals come despite the Government’s own research highlighting how conversions to residential through change of use PDR can fail to meet adequate design standards, avoid contributing to local areas and create worse living environments. The report also found that PDR undermined the ability of councils to bring about positive changes to their places by limiting their influence to repurpose town centre assets. Councils and their communities have already been left with a long-term legacy  of negative impacts resulting from some of the 19 amendments to the General Permitted Development Order since 2015. 
     
  • As leaders of place, councils have already been working hard to repurpose their high streets and town centres and respond to longer-term trends in how they are used. They recognise that the pace of change and intervention will need to quicken as a result of the pandemic. They want to do what they can to adapt but are held back by lack of resources and planning constraints such as permitted development and compulsory purchase order processes.
     
  • These proposals mean that councils will lose out on Section 106 contributions for affordable housing at a time when they are most needed.
     
  • The proposal to fast track applications for major infrastructure development are particularly concerning, notwithstanding the current exceptional and immediate need for temporary extensions to hospitals and medical facilities. Councils and communities are best placed to make decisions for their local areas through the existing planning process. This allows them to take into consideration existing and planned development, as well as their infrastructure needs.
     
  • We are concerned that these proposals have been put forward prior to conducting impact assessments on business, local planning authorities, communities and those with a protected characteristic. We recommend that these impact assessments be undertaken prior to any final recommendations and reflected in any proposals taken forward.
     
  • Councils will need to be properly resourced for any additional burdens due to any of these proposals being taken forward.

Response to Questions 1-22

Q1. Do you agree that there should be no size limit on the buildings that could benefit from the new permitted development right to change use from Commercial, Business and Service (Class E) to residential (C3)?
Please give your reasons.

Notwithstanding our view that we do not support the extension of PDR, if Government is minded to take the proposal forward then not all retail space or industrial buildings will be an appropriate size to reconfigure into homes or have the necessary configuration for homes, such as access to daylight, internal and outdoor space. Councils should have the ability to determine together with their communities whether a building can increase in size and if so, by how much.


Q2.1 Do you agree that the right should not apply in areas of outstanding natural beauty, the Broads, National Parks, areas specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 41(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and World Heritage Sites?
Please give your reasons.

We agree that the right should not apply to the areas identified. Conservation areas and other locations which require a Habitat Regulations Assessment should also require planning permission. Councils should also have flexibility to determine with their communities which other types of areas the right should not apply to, such as Green Belts or areas of flood risk such as floodplains or flood zones.

Q2.2 Do you agree that the right should apply in conservation areas?
Please give your reasons.

The right should not apply to any of the 10,000 conservation areas in England. Local communities must continue to have a say in how their local conservation areas are managed. This is best done through the existing planning process. Permitted development is an ad hoc, disconnected approach that undermines councils’ and their communities’ ability to make decisions that reflect local need and preserve and enhance the unique and distinctive character of an area. It does not allow for consideration of the cumulative impact of decisions that will irreversibly disturb the existing fabric of a conservation area. Councils should not need to use their already limited resources to make an Article 4 direction to protect conservation areas from permitted development rights.

Conservation areas vary greatly and the special character of these areas does not come only from the quality of their buildings but as a holistic set of uses, including form and function. Historic environments can also play an integral role in a place’s identity and civic pride as well as its success, contributing to a wider economic and social strategy as agreed through a council’s Local Plan. Furthermore, in their report Living with Beauty, the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission advised against allowing permissions such as permitted development to be available in conservation areas and for listed buildings. A number of the Government’s recommendations for Pillar Two – Planning for beautiful and sustainable places in the recent Planning White Paper are based on the Commission’s findings.

Q2.3 Do you agree that, in conservation areas only, the right should allow for prior approval of the impact of the loss of ground floor use to residential?
Please give your reasons.

No. Planning permission should be required in conservation areas for the reasons outlined in the response to Q2.2. If the Government decides not to uphold the requirement for planning permission, then prior approval of the impact of the loss of ground floor use of a building to residential use within a conservation area should be required. This should be guided by a council’s existing Conservation Management Plan, Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). As described in the Government’s Planning White Paper Pillar Two – Planning beautiful and sustainable places, planning should engage communities in the process to foster high quality development, generating “net gains for the quality of our built and natural environments – not just ‘no net harm’”.


Q3.1 Do you agree that in managing the impact of the proposal, the matters set out in paragraph 21 of the consultation document should be considered in a prior approval?
Please give your reasons.

Notwithstanding our lack of support for the proposed right, if the right goes ahead, we agree that the full range of matters set out in paragraph 21 of the consultation document should be prior approval considerations. There are also other prior approval considerations that should be included: design, odour, waste handling, external appearance, air quality, natural light, impact on amenity, and impact on local trade and business. In addition, there should be a requirement for units to meet the Nationally Described Space Standard (NDSS) and meet local policy requirements for Section 106 contributions (including affordable housing) and the Community Infrastructure Levy.

There should be a prior approval for fire safety that as a minimum covers similar issues relating to cladding as have been dealt with in relation to adding additional storeys to buildings under permitted development. This needs to apply to the entire building and not only the parts subject to conversion. Once Gateway One is in place under the proposed new regime for higher-risk buildings it should apply to those conversions under permitted development that would meet the criteria for Gateway One if they were new buildings.

We recommend that there is an amendment to the Building Regulations, under the Fire Safety Bill or the Building Safety Bill, requiring the whole of a building converted to residential purpose under the right to comply with the Building Regulations, rather than just that part subject to actual building work; or that the developer must consult with the fire and rescue service if the right is being applied and that any conversion to residential must be accompanied with a fire statement.

Q3.2 Are there any other planning matters that should be considered?
Please specify.

Any change of use to residential needs to account for any additional requirements or change in infrastructure required to support those homes and residents. This includes immediate infrastructure such as waste, water, and power, as well as social infrastructure including schools, libraries, medical facilities, and open space. The Government’s own research has shown that permitted development leads to a poor residential experience characterised by very small sized units and only 3.5 per cent of those having access to private amenity space, and just 15.9 per cent having access to communal amenity space which the research notes is increasingly recognised as a feature of good residential design. There may also be a case for considering the need for prior structural safety approval for structural safety of existing building and suitability for conversion.


Q4.1 Do you agree that the proposed new permitted development right to change use from Commercial, Business and Service (Class E) to residential should attract a fee per dwellinghouse?
Please give your reasons.

Notwithstanding that we do not support the proposed right, should this be taken forward then there should be a fee. This should be set at a rate which enables councils to fully recover the costs of processing the prior approval application.  

Q4.2 If you agree there should be a fee per dwellinghouse, should this be set at £96 per dwellinghouse?
Please give your reasons.

Councils need the ability to recover the costs of processing applications, and therefore should be able to charge a commensurate fee. In a survey conducted by the LGA in 2018 nearly 85 per cent of councils responded that the cost of administering each prior approval process was considerably higher than the £96 fee set by the Government.

Planning fees also do not cover the true cost of processing planning applications, and taxpayers currently subsidise the cost at a rate of nearly £180 million a year. This is most apparent with smaller applications. Planning departments need greater resourcing. Between 2010-11 and 2017-18 there was a 37.9 per cent fall in net current expenditure on planning functions and planning departments. This significantly reduces their capacity to ensure the delivery of new housing through the planning process and enable the new supply of housing and appropriate infrastructure. Council planning departments could become self-financing through allowing councils to set planning fees locally.


Q5. Do you have any other comments on the proposed right for the change of use from Commercial, Business and Service use class to residential?
Please specify.

Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, councils and the Government are understandably focused on the economic recovery of local areas. Since the pandemic began, communities have been spending more time in their own neighbourhoods and at home and understand their local needs now better than ever. Councils want to make and shape great places, and have clear, strong ambitions for their local recovery and long-term prosperity.

We do not support the proposed right as it will significantly impact on a community and its area without genuine public engagement or the transparency suggested in the Government’s Planning White Paper. We caution against hasty responses that lack evidence in terms of their social, economic, environmental and social success. This could undermine councils’ existing high street recovery plans, including the 72 recipients of the Government’s recent £830 million Future High Streets fund. Instead, genuine public engagement will ensure that a community has an agreed understanding about how, where, and what type of increased capacity will meet their needs. Councils and communities will have even less opportunity to have a say should the Planning White Paper proposals go ahead, with shorter consultation timeframes and proposals to fast-track some developments.

As needs and priorities change, councils also need the tools and resources to be able to shape vibrant places for their local communities with a mixed offer including retail, culture, sport and leisure provision. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors found that previous conversion of office to residential use has led to the loss of business activity and its contribution to local economies and community vitality. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee concluded from their inquiry on High Streets and Town Centres 2030 that planning is crucial to high street and town centre transformation and the Government should therefore ensure that planning powers are fit-for-purpose. They asserted that PDR risks undermining the strategic vision that a community has developed for its high street or town centre and preferred an approach whereby Local Plans identify where housing should be situated.

Only a locally-led planning system in which councils and the communities they represent have a say over the way places develop will ensure the delivery of high-quality affordable homes with the necessary infrastructure to create sustainable, resilient places for current and future generations. While the change of use to residential may be seen as a way of alleviating empty shops on high streets and in town centres, this is a hasty response that may in the long-term that lead to more poor-quality housing in units never intended nor designed for human habitation. This is especially important because we are likely to continue to spend more time at home as employers consider ways to make home working more permanent, increasing the need for a safe, healthy homes as people live, work and play, all from home.


Q6.1 Do you think that the proposed right for the change of use from the Commercial, Business and Service use class to residential could impact on businesses, communities, or local planning authorities?
If so, please give your reasons
.

Yes. The proposed right will have a direct impact on business, communities and local planning authorities as discussed in response to Q5.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet fully understood, yet there has already been change in how people use their local areas. This looks set to continue as homeworking and living more locally will likely continue and may increase. Councils want to make and shape great places, and have clear, strong ambitions for their local recovery. However, the proposed measures in this consultation will limit councils’ flexibility in developing alternative uses of former retail space on the high street with a potential negative impact on the variety of offer in town centres.

High streets and town centres are complex, dynamic and mixed depending on their local context. In their early analysis of planning for post-pandemic high street recovery, the Royal Town Planning Institute found that the term ‘high street’ covers a vast range of places affected by different (and often unique) circumstances. These places have experienced (and will continue to experience) the effects of the pandemic differently. Only a locally-led planning process with the appropriate amount of time for public consultation will ensure that all residents are able to have a say in the way that their area is developed.

There are a number of risks associated with allowing widespread PDR now that could make the retail sector more fragile. Once units are converted to residential use, it is unlikely that they will ever return to high street or town centre uses. Inactive frontages and a lack of flexibility for future change of use may lead to negative knock on effects or unintended consequences such as the departure of other retail or complementary uses, removing the active street frontages and mix of uses that make high streets and town centres vibrant. The loss of revenue from business rates will create additional challenges for councils already trying to recover economically from the pandemic.

There are a range of alternative ways that councils can revitalise high streets and town centres. Culture-led regeneration can be an effective way of supporting sustainable growth in town centres and has been used effectively by many local authorities, as we explored in our 2019 report on culture and economic growth and acknowledged in the Government’s approach to the Towns Fund. Culture and leisure buildings and organisations can act as anchor institutions, driving footfall to high streets and supporting the visitor and night-time economies. Culture and the creative industries can also be used as a focus for development. An increasing number of councils have made use of empty commercial units on high streets to establish meanwhile use or ‘pop-up’ cultural attractions and creative workspaces, which have the advantage of making temporary use of a unit, and allowing its return to retail or other functions when required.  

Community demand increasingly focuses on experiencing, requiring high streets to compete based on the experiences they offer their visitors – cultural and leisure activities, including sports, are at the heart of how high streets can do this. The High Street Action Zones have made a particular impact by integrating local heritage into this offer, and any changes must not negatively impact on the work that has been done through these, or which could be done in the future.

We are also concerned about the impact of the proposed measures may have on sport, physical activity and indoor leisure. Gyms, swimming pools and sports and leisure facilities have been placed under great pressure during the pandemic due to loss of income and high maintenance costs during closures, as well as having fallen between the gaps of many of the packages of support available to other businesses and organisations. While the recent Government announcement of a £100m package of support for leisure centres is welcome, the sector requires much more support if it is to survive the latest lockdown and contribute to recovery.

Q6.2 Do you think that the proposed right for the change of use from the Commercial, Business and Service use class to residential could give rise to any impacts on people who share a protected characteristic?
If so, please give your reasons.

Yes. The pandemic has highlighted stark inequalities within our society. This is especially so in health outcomes due in part to poor quality housing such as PDR, due to poor ventilation, a lack of space standards, and a lack of access to services and green space. There is a significant body of evidence that points to the negative impact that overcrowding and poor-quality housing has on people, and that our housing is an important determinant of our health. While this affects anyone living in poor quality housing, Public Health England has identified how existing inequalities affecting BAME, for example, have become exposed and exacerbated during the pandemic. The recent Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on the unequal impacts of COVID-19 on a range of different groups highlighted that overcrowding, which is characteristic of PDR, also disproportionately affects the BAME community, low-income household, older persons, renters and those with disabilities.

Permitted development schemes have tended to be located primarily in commercial and/or industrial areas, far more than those with planning permission. The Government’s research found that vulnerable people are being placed in accommodation that falls short of space standards, often in remote locations in the city with poor access to public transport. The research also found that there are noticeable differences in terms of the compliance with NDSS, with only 52 per cent of prior approval units meeting the standard, and poorer Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) performance than for those developed with planning permission. Substandard and poorer quality homes developed through PDR are more likely to be used to house vulnerable people such as those in temporary accommodation.

Currently, Section 106 or other affordable housing contribution is required for a threshold of 10 units, and lower threshold in designated rural areas. The Government has proposed to increase this to up to 40 or 50 units.  

Analysis commissioned by the LGA shows that between 2015/16 and 2019/20, there were 119,505 private homes built on sites of 10 to 49 units. Based on an average of developers being required to make 25 per cent of new housing affordable, this would have included 29,876 affordable homes being built for either rent or purchase. These homes would not have had to be included in developments under these plans, including more than 5,000 affordable homes in the south-east and almost 4,000 in the north-west.

Over a million homes allocated in Local Plans are waiting to be taken up by the development industry. These sites do not yet have planning permission but have been formally identified as suitable for housing by local councils and are sustainable locations that have been tested at the examination of the plan. This amounts to an additional 4.4 years’ worth of housing supply on top of the 5 years of housing land supply many councils can demonstrate. This includes an allowance for dwellings from windfalls increases this to 6.8 years’ worth of housing supply for England.

Communities have already potentially lost 16,200 affordable homes through office to residential conversions. Last year (2019/20) more than half of all new homes in Trafford (56 per cent) were office conversions with 40.9 per cent in Crawley, and Luton, Walsall and Harlow nearly 40 per cent. The inability to secure affordable housing and other Section 106 contributions towards, for example, local transport and public realm improvements is a significant missed opportunity. Permitted development undermines the delivery of much needed affordable housing at a time when we need it more than ever. Instead, building 100,000 new social homes would help the COVID-19 economic recovery and result in a £15 billion boost to the economy. Councils should be able to determine the mix of affordable homes tenures that best meet local needs.

We recommend that an impact assessment regarding the potential impacts is undertaken before these proposals are taken forward.

We also do not agree that local planning authorities would benefit from reduced volume of planning applications, offset by a reduction in fees.


Q7.1 Do you agree that the right for schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals be amended to allow for development which is not greater than 25% of the footprint, or up to 250 square metres of the current buildings on the site at the time the legislation is brought into force, whichever is the greater?
Please give your reasons.

We do not support this proposal. Councils should have the ability to determine together with their communities whether an increase in the size of development is required, and if so, by how much. The right will also prevent local planning authorities, in some cases together with the Department for Education, from ensuring that expansion of schools occurs in the right places and where this is a projected future need for additional or expansion of schools. Additional impacts such as parking and transport access will need to be considered, as these changes could impact on the wider transport network. We support the proposal for the right to provide protections for nearby residents in that it restricts development close to the boundary and, in the case of schools, safeguards playing fields.

In addition, councils are currently restricted from opening new maintained schools and should therefore be able to consider expansion. This should be done through the existing planning process to ensure that expansions take place where they are most needed and in agreement with their local community. We continue to urge the Government to give councils back the responsibility for making decisions about opening new schools, where that is the local preference. More broadly, the Government should replace the existing highly fragmented school capital funding system with a single local funding pot, bringing together existing programmes to create additional places, as well as rebuild, maintain and repair schools.

Q7.2 Do you agree that the right be amended to allow the height limit to be raised from 5 metres to 6?
Please give your reasons.

Councils should have the ability to decide whether this is appropriate and to properly consider the impacts on neighbouring residents or other uses. We recommend that this decision be made through the existing planning application process.

Q7.3 Is there any evidence to support an increase above 6 metres?
Please specify.

There is no evidence to support this nor has the consultation document provided the evidence to support this recommendation.

Q7.4 Do you agree that prisons should benefit from the same right to expand or add additional buildings?
Please give your reasons.

Prisons provide a level of employment to local communities, but do not provide the same community co-benefits for shared use that other public sector infrastructure such as schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals do. Some schools and educational institutions, particularly those in urban areas, co-locate or share their green outdoor space thus sharing existing amenity or creating new amenity with their local community. All of the proposed public sector infrastructure should be required to be consulted on through the existing planning process.


Q8. Do you have any other comments about the permitted development rights for schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and prisons?
Please specify.

Educational institutions sometimes provide a service for local residents through shared social infrastructure and green space, and this can play an important role in developing inclusive communities. However, only by consulting through the existing planning process will it be clear what the potential opportunities or risks are for expanding these public institutions. Public service institutions may have additional functions or space shared by their community, the impact of each which needs to be considered individually.

While expanding the footprint of existing facilities may extend the lifespan of these buildings, it may be postponing a need for a building to be completely modernised. The appropriate assessment as well as consideration of existing and additional infrastructure should be required as a minimum before building commences.


Q9.1 Do you think that the proposed amendments to the right in relation to schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals could impact on businesses, communities, or local planning authorities?
If so, please give your reasons.

Yes. These proposals will impact on the immediate and surrounding areas and any changes therefore need go through the existing planning application process. Any plans for expansion should be required to have been identified in a council’s Local Plan so that councils and communities can identify where there may be impacts on the wider community and their response. These proposals will, for example, impact on existing infrastructure that support and provide services to communities as well as the timing for delivery of other planned infrastructure. Additional impacts such as parking and transport access will need to be considered as these changes could impact on the wider transport network.

The consultation document suggests that local authorities would benefit from a reduced volume of planning applications. On the contrary, by allowing these major developments to be fast-tracked, they may delay other existing plans, placing an additional burden on councils. Councils will likely require additional resources to fast track these applications, which will put significant pressure on councils with already stretched resources.

Q9.2 Do you think that the proposed amendments to the right in relation to schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals could give rise to any impacts on people who share a protected characteristic?
If so, please give your reasons.

Yes. We recommend that the Government prepares an impact assessment to understand how the proposed amendment may impact on people who share a protected characteristic before the right goes ahead. It is important to stress that only a locally-led planning processes with the appropriate amount of time for public consultation will ensure that people with protected characteristics in each area will be able to voice their concerns and identify how this will impact on them.


Q10.1 Do you think that the proposed amendment to allow prisons to benefit from the right could impact on businesses, communities, or local planning authorities?
If so, please give your reasons.

Yes. As noted in response to Q9.1, these proposals will impact on the immediate and surrounding areas and any changes therefore need go through the existing planning process. Any plans for expansion should be required to have been identified in a council’s Local Plan so that councils and communities can identify where there may be impacts on the wider community and their response. These proposals will also impact on existing infrastructure that support and provide services to communities as well as the timing for delivery of other needed infrastructure. Additional impacts such as parking and transport access will need to be considered, as these changes could impact on the wider transport network.

The consultation document suggests that local authorities would benefit from reduced volume of planning applications. By allowing these major developments to be fast-tracked, they may delay other existing plans, placing an additional burden on councils. Councils will likely require additional resources to fast track these applications, essentially a duplicate process to the existing application process.

  
Q10.2 Do you think that the proposed amendment in respect of prisons could give rise to any impacts on people who share a protected characteristic?
If so, please give your reasons

We recommend that the Government prepares an impact assessment to understand how the proposed amendment may impact on people who share a protected characteristic before the right goes ahead. It is important to stress that only a local-led planning process, with the appropriate amount of time for public consultation, will ensure that people with protected characteristics in each area will be able to voice their concerns and identify how this will impact on them. We recommend that an impact assessment regarding the potential impacts is undertaken before these proposals are taken forward.


Q11 Do you agree that the new public service application process, as set out in paragraphs 43 and 44 of the consultation document, should only apply to major development (which are not EIA developments)? Please give your reasons.

As a general point, it is positive that the Government recognises in paragraph 43 the impact that new public service developments have on a local area and the importance of local communities expressing their views, through a normal planning application process. However, the wider proposals on permitted development rights outlined in this consultation are at direct odds with this messaging, and completely fail to recognise the impact that expansion of existing public service infrastructure can have on local areas.

We agree in principle that public service developments which are over 5 hectares in size will not be covered by the modified process. Because councils would require additional resources to undertake this approach, we recommend that it would be better to properly resource planning departments in the first instance.


Q12 Do you agree the modified process should apply to hospitals, schools and further education colleges, and prisons, young offenders’ institutions, and other criminal justice accommodation?
If not, please give your reasons as well as any suggested alternatives.

As noted in our response to Q11, because councils would require additional resources to undertake this approach, we recommend that it would be better to undertake the normal planning process and properly resource planning departments in the first instance.


Q13 Do you agree the determination period for applications falling within the scope of the modified process should be reduced to 10 weeks?
Please give your reasons.

No. We do not support the proposal that local planning authorities will be required to prioritise these decisions over the other applications for major development. We seek more evidence for basis of this proposal. We do not believe that 10 weeks is sufficient for the quality public consultation necessary given the impact that major developments will have on a community. This requires adequate engagement and there is a risk that local knowledge will be missed if the engagement is too short. Paragraph 42 states that “recent experience has shown that the determination…has often taken considerably longer than 13 weeks” but does not note the reason(s) for delay. A delay in the process may be due to lack of evidence or other responsibility on the applicant’s part. It is important to better understand and identify why and where these delays occur to ensure the solution addresses the actual problem.

Notwithstanding our view that we do not support this proposal, if this does go ahead, we agree that engaging committee members at the pre-application stage will be critical. Should the applicant not meet all the requirements then a council should not be required to prioritise or agree to the application. The consultation document notes that as part of the planning reforms the Government will be considering the role of statutory consultees and their resourcing. We therefore recommend that any decision to change current application timeframes is delayed until the recommendations from the Planning White Paper have been made.

These types of applications require significant council resources, and we reiterate that councils need to be able to recover the full cost of processing planning applications.


Q14. Do you agree the minimum consultation/publicity period should be reduced to 14 days?
Please give your reasons

No. We do not support reducing this timeframe from 21 to 14 days. If these major developments are to be fast tracked, then up-front full community engagement will be even more important. Shortening the timeframe will also put additional pressure on a council and its resources and may appear to the public to be undemocratic, undermining community trust in the planning system. Shortened consultations could also lead to a lack of engagement needed to have all the evidence regarding infrastructure requirements and other existing applications. This could lead to an increase in appeals.  


Q15 Do you agree the Secretary of State should be notified when a valid planning application is first submitted to a local planning authority and when the authority  anticipates making a decision?
Please give your reasons.

No. We are unclear how this will create greater transparency when councils already post details of planning applications publicly online. This will also add unnecessary bureaucracy and additional burden to councils at a time when they are already under resourced. Any new burdens will need to be fully funded by the Government. We therefore seek evidence regarding this recommendation.


Q16 Do you agree that the policy in paragraph 94 of the NPPF should be extended to require local planning authorities to engage proactively to resolve key planning issues of other public service infrastructure projects before applications are submitted?
Please give your reasons.

We do not consider it necessary to do this as councils will already be doing this through pre-application discussions.


Q17.1 Do you have any comments on the other matters set out in this consultation document, including post-permission matters, guidance and planning fees?
Please specify.

Councils need to be able to recover the full cost of processing planning applications. Planning fees do not cover the true cost and taxpayers currently subsidise the cost at a rate of nearly £180 million a year. 


Q17.2 Do you have any other suggestions on how these priority public service infrastructure projects should be prioritised within the planning system?
Please specify.

Councils are best placed to make local place-based decisions and will need the appropriate resourcing to do this. At the very least any plans for expansion should be required to have been identified in a council’s Local Plan, in order that councils and communities can identify where there may be impacts on the wider community.


Q18 Do you think that the proposed amendments to the planning applications process for public service infrastructure projects could give rise to any impacts on people who share a protected characteristic?
If so, please give your reasons.

We recommend that the Government prepares an impact assessment to understand how the proposed amendment may impact on people who share a protected characteristic before the right goes ahead. It is important to stress that only a locally-led planning process with the appropriate amount of time for public consultation will ensure that people with protected characteristics in each area will be able to voice their concerns and identify how this will impact on them.


Q19.1 Do you agree with the broad approach to be applied to the review and update of existing permitted development rights in respect of categories 1,2 and 3 outlined in paragraph 76 of the consultation document?
Please give your reasons.

As the consultation points out, the review and update of existing permitted development rights is a significant and complex exercise, potentially requiring amendment of 49 individual rights and additional paragraphs and articles. It has not been possible given the timescales of the consultation to consider these changes in enough detail to provide a response. As a broader point, we are very concerned that the Government made significant amendments to the use classes in 2020 without any public consultation. 


Q19.2 Are there any additional issues that we should consider?
Please specify.

Please see answer to Q19.1.


Q20 Do you agree that uses, such as betting shops and pay day loan shops, that are currently able to change use to a use now within the Commercial, Business and Service use class should be able to change use to any use within that class?
Please give your reasons.

We support the proposal for uses to be flexible to change from the sui generis uses of betting shops and payday loan shops to that use class. However, we do not support any further changes within the use class that allows for further permitted development, and this should be written into the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO). Councils need to have the tools, powers, and local flexibility to manage what is happening in their area.

Last year the Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling industry found that “the liberalisation of the regulation of gambling has led to an increased presence of gambling services on the high street”. They recommended that local authorities should be given powers to limit the number of new premises. In determining whether the location for gambling premises is appropriate the local authority should have regard to the general character of the locality and the use to which buildings nearby are located.

The LGA has supported stronger powers for councils to limit betting shop clustering, and changes to the planning system in April 2015 restricted the ability to open new betting shops without applying for planning permission. This, combined with the reduction in fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) stakes permitted within betting shops, has contributed to a reduction in the overall number of betting shops.


Q21 Do you agree the broad approach to be applied in respect of category 4 outlined in paragraph 76 of the consultation document?
Please give your reasons.

Thoughtful consideration will need to be given to any future consolidation and simplification of existing permitted development rights. It will be crucial that any changes do not inadvertently lead to unintended consequences which could negatively impact on a local area and undermine a council’s ability to support repurposing of high streets and town centres that are fit for the future.


Q22 Do you have any other comments about the consolidation and simplification of existing permitted development rights?
Please specify.

In addition to our above responses, we recommend that before the Government takes these proposals forward an impact assessment is undertaken on the impacts on those with protected characteristics. We also recommend that any decisions resulting from this consultation should only be taken forward once the Government formally responds to the Planning White Paper consultation submissions so that they can be considered simultaneously to ensure that decisions are fully joined up and integrated.