New planning rules now in force

New planning rules to support fast track delivery of schools and hospitals across England, first announced last summer, have been introduced today.

New rules supporting new homes and the fast track delivery of schools and hospitals across England came into force today (31/3/21), as part of a major relaxation of planning laws first announced last summer.

The new rules, announced by housing secretary Robert Jenrick, will help support the creation of new homes while also transforming unused buildings, making the most of brownfield land.

The new homes will be delivered through a simpler ‘prior approval’ process instead of a full planning application and will be subject to high standards, ensuring they provide adequate natural light and meet space standards.

The reforms have also introduced a new fast track for extending public service buildings. New rules allow for bigger extensions to existing public buildings including schools, colleges, universities and hospitals.

Currently, public buildings can have small extensions without the need for a full planning application. Today’s changes mean they would be able to extend further and faster, helping to quickly deliver more classrooms and hospital space.

This will mean that vital public buildings will be expanded more quickly through the planning system with a faster, more streamlined planning process.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are creating the most small business friendly planning system in the world to provide the flexibility needed for high streets to bounce back from the pandemic. By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.

“The public also want improvements to public services as quickly as possible and so these changes will also help schools and hospitals to adapt quickly to changing needs with a new fast track for extending public service buildings. This will help deliver more classrooms and hospital space by helping them extend further and faster.”

Measures announced today also include amendment of existing permitted development rights for ports so that they have the same freedoms as airports for undertaking development, and amendments to the demolition permitted development right to ensure the removal of unlisted heritage assets is subject to due process and proper consultation via planning

To support the faster delivery of important public service infrastructure, the UK government has also amended an existing permitted development right to allow larger extensions to certain infrastructure.

This amended permitted development right will allow for the extension, erection or alteration of school, college, university, hospital, and for the first time prison buildings by up to 25% of the existing footprint of the cumulative buildings on the site, or 250 square metres, whichever is greater. The existing height restriction on new buildings is also being increased from 5 metres to 6 metres.

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) welcomed the planning rules relaxation, describing the new rules as “laying the foundations for a post-pandemic future".

ACE chief executive Hannah Vickers said: “The relaxation of planning rules announced today are a common sense approach to laying the foundations for a post-pandemic future. It will support the revitalisation of the high street and bring life back to town and city centres across the UK. This brownfield first approach will mean more housing, cafes and restaurants, replacing lost retail units.

“Furthermore, by allowing larger extensions to existing public buildings including schools, colleges, universities and hospitals, the government has unlocked a potential barrier to swifter delivery. Our Project Speed briefings earlier in the year highlighted the need for more to be done to make political ambitions in this space a reality, and we’re delighted that this measure will open up the potential for transformative investments in health and education buildings and infrastructure.

“However, we should not lose sight of the ‘better’ aspect of ‘build back better’ and ensure that speed is not driven at the expense of quality nor delivering a sense of place and community.”

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