Legal development

Take 5: What's planned for planning in 2024?

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    Happy new year! We hope you enjoyed the Christmas break. Now that we're all back to it, we thought we'd start off with our Top 5 things to look out for in 2024:

    1. National Development Management Policies (NDMPs)

    Remember these? The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 set the scene for NDMPs - another type of national planning policy of even greater importance than the existing NPPF. The Act says that planning applications must be decided in accordance with the local plan and any NDMPs, unless material considerations "strongly" indicate otherwise. This puts NDMPs on the same footing as the local plan. Or does it? NDMPs will actually trump the local plan in the event of a conflict, giving them ultimate supremacy. This could be good news for developers if the NDMP is pro-development, but bad news if it focuses on embodied carbon ideals or other topics which put a strain on viability.

    The Government has promised to consult on the NDMPs before introducing them and this is expected in Q12024.

    2. Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)

    We're still waiting for the exact date, but sometime later this month, new rules on BNG will come into force. This means that most (non-householder) planning permissions for the development of land in England will be granted with an automatic BNG planning condition.

    The BNG planning condition requires a BNG plan to be submitted and approved by the planning authority before the development is started. The BNG plan must ensure that the development achieves at least a 10% net gain in biodiversity. On-site improvement is given the greatest weight and off-site payments are very expensive. However, we're already seeing that it can be very difficult to achieve the 10% on-site in certain environments, such as riverside developments.

    3. More changes to speed up planning decisions

    A number of measures to speed up planning application decisions are in the pipeline:

    • the planning guarantee announced at the Autumn Statement - councils will get the full costs of certain planning applications (paid for by applicants) in return for deciding such applications within guaranteed faster deadlines. If they fail to meet the deadlines, the application fees will be refunded and the application will be processed free of charge;
    • removing the ability to agree extensions to determination deadlines – this is to encourage councils to determine planning applications quickly;
    • a review into the role of statutory consultees - to see if they are helping or hindering the planning process and how things might be done differently;
    • more Secretary of State intervention - for local authorities put in special measures for either not producing a local plan or not meeting planning deadlines.

    4. London Plan Review

    Just before Christmas, Michael Gove wrote to The Mayor of London to tell him that he's instructed a group of experts to look at whether the London Plan is to blame for the shortfall in housing delivery in London.

    The experts are due to report back in the next few months and Mr Gove has already threatened that he may intervene in the London Plan as a result…

    5. Judicial review of planning decisions

    We all know how damaging and costly judicial reviews can be and that they often mean that a developer does not want to proceed with the development until the process has run its course. This year, DLUHC will be looking at planning judicial reviews and assessing how they are holding up development delivery.

    We've been told that a government announcement on judicial review challenge will be made soon, so watch this space.

    The information provided is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all developments in the law and practice, or to cover all aspects of those referred to.
    Readers should take legal advice before applying it to specific issues or transactions.


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