One of the few areas of planning that has seen an upsurge in interest over the last year or so has been the renewal of an existing planning permission –usually for all the wrong reasons relating to the economic downturn.
In recent years we have seen the default time period for a planning permission reduce from 5 years to 3 years together with the removal of the option to make a simple application to extend it. All of this took place under a climate of optimism in the development world which resulted in some mandarins becoming concerned about a bank of unimplemented planning permissions making it difficult to plan for a proper future.
Those same mandarins are now facing a different scenario. The latest statistics suggest that only around 30% or major permissions are progressing to implementation within their current ‘shelf life’ and this is leading to fears that if/when we really do emerge from recession, there won’t be anything much to build because it will all have expired! In the first quarter of 2007, more than 1000 major applications were started on site. By the end of 2008, this had plummeted to less than 200.
The government have finally woken up to the problem. All LPAs have been reminded by Whitehall that there is absolutely no reason why they should not grant planning permissions with a longer life than just three years –its entirely within their discretion to give long periods. Seemingly you have only to ask….!
This leaves the thorny problem of renewing permissions. The easy and convenient mechanism of a simple S73 application has been lost to us as a result of government improvements to the planning system. But don’t worry, there is a possibility of bringing it back. A consultation exercise on this is running right now on just precisely how this will be achieved. Seemingly the principle is straightforward –its just the fee arrangements that are proving the stumbling block! At present, its being suggested that from October 2009 we will be able to renew permission by making a (relatively) simple application. However you need to be aware that the application fee for extending the permission will initially be the same fee that you would have paid for a new full application. Hardly the sort of response that the sector was looking for. At a slightly later date, this will change to a more modest flat rate renewal fee. Seemingly the government have the right to bring back provisions for renewal but can’t set a flat rate fee without permission from both Houses. This we are told will take some months. Seemingly we can spend hours debating the expense of the Speaker and other luminaries but can’t find 5 minutes to sanction the return of a provision that should never have been dispensed with in the first place. Still, its progress of a sort!
Further details of the full consultation can be found here.