Decision Maker: Planning & City Development Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
4.1 The Committee received a report which provided an update on changes to national planning policy & planning reform that has occurred following the government’s Planning White Paper that was published in August 2020. It also identified the impacts these changes are having in Westminster.
4.2 The government set out plans for extensive and ambitious changes to the planning system in its ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper, published in August 2020. The White Paper received in excess of 40,000 representations in response to consultation held during the second half of 2020 and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has been considering these consultation responses in the period since. To date there has been no firm commitment from government on when a formal response to the consultation on the white paper may be expected. Recent press speculation indicates that that a significant number of the proposals for reform in the white paper may be dropped or scaled back and that planning reform may now form part of a wider package of reforms included in a Levelling Up and Regeneration bill, which is likely to be laid before Parliament later in 2022.
4.3 Principal Changes to Planning Legislation and Guidance Since August 2020 includes: -
· Amendments to the Use Classes Order & Associated Permitted Development Rights
· Amended Requirements for Removal of Statues, Monuments and Memorials
· Introduction of the National Model Design Code Amended National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
· Fire Safety – Introduction of Planning Gateway One
· Environment Act 2022 – Introducing Biodiversity Net Gain
· Permitted Development Rights for Moveable Structures ‘Levelling Up the United Kingdom’ White Paper
4.4 Members held a discussion and noted the following: -
· That there will be consultation on the Design and Heritage SPDs later in 2022/ early 2023.
· Members welcomed the reduction in the pre-application advice fees for sustainability improvements and were advised that this would encourage householders to use the service. The Service will also shortly be publishing ‘How to Guides’ to support applicants to make more successful applications for sustainability improvements to their homes.
· That the committee report format was to be amended following changing focus of the National Planning Policy, the adoption of the new City Plan and new London Plan in 2021, and the adoption of the Environmental SPD in March 2022. The updated format will focus greater attention on material considerations such as energy performance and sustainability, biodiversity gain, community engagement and economic benefits, as well as ensuring that the reports identify relevant policies in made neighbourhood plans. The new reports will be introduced from late April 2022 onwards.
· Members noted that there were new limits on the use of Article 4 Directions which could restrict permitted development rights and that specific evidence of significant harm was required for streets and areas for this protection to be introduced. Officers reminded Members that the Class E Use Class was much wider than previous Use Classes that it replaced and encompassed a wide range of land uses. The Sub-Committee were advised that the City Plan policy areas and Town Centre Health Checks could be used to support identification of which areas of the City need to be protected using Article 4 Directions.
· That the built environment in Westminster is ‘hyper mixed used’. Members were informed that this position enabled for a large amount of data to be collated about ‘mixed usage’ in comparison to other Local Planning Authorities and this ensured that decisions were fully evidence based and help determined what was feasible in areas and were specific. Members were reminded that the aims of permitted development rights were to increase housing stock, and this was aligned with the City Plan.
· Members agreed that the local community, Amenity Societies, and planning experts should be engaged when creating Design Codes and noted that the Early Community Engagement guidance promotes this type of engagement. Members further noted that there had been interest from the aforementioned parties in contributing to formulation of future policies. There have been pilot schemes undertaken by other Local Planning Authorities regarding Design Codes and learning from these examples will be taken into consideration.
· That the Conservation Area Audits would be considered when devising Design Codes. It is planned that the existing audits will be updated, with the aspiration that this process will lead to full coverage of all conservation areas.
· That the heritage setting of sites would be taken into consideration when devising Design Codes and that these areas were protected. Members were advised that amenity societies and neighbourhood forums had approached the Service around this issue.
· Members agreed that ‘Moveable Structures’ which were allowed under the Permitted Development Rights should be closely monitored by the Planning Enforcement Team where concerns about them were reported to the Service.
· That they would appreciate clarification as to whether the future statutory requirement for delivery of 10% biodiversity net gain applied to all new developments (major and non-major development) and development that is permitted development. Members noted that officers would review the legislation and report back on what type of development the statutory requirement for 10% biodiversity net gain will apply to.
· That conditions imposed on Class E developments to limit the use of developments within Class E were widely acknowledged by developers and planning agents as being reasonable and necessary to control the impacts of new development. Members were informed that conditions must meet the tests set out in the NPPF if they are to be enforceable.
· Members noted that officers were liaising with the Department for Levelling Up and Communities (DLUC) to ensure that an Article 4 Direction that meets the tests in the NPPF can be introduced for the CAZ to protect certain areas within the CAZ from harmful changes of use from Class E to residential which would erode the contribution the CAZ makes to the Westminster economy and the wider London and UK economy. Officers advised Members that where there is not an Article 4 Direction, applicants proposing Class E to residential permitted development are still required to seek prior approval and that the prior approval regime is more extensive than for many other permitted developments rights.
· That the New Article 4 Direction relating to parts of the CAZ is expected to come into force in August 2022
· Members requested that prior approval applications for change of use from Class E to residential be included in the Weekly List.
· That the Affordable Housing and Planning Obligations SPD was being consulted on and that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) now includes First Homes as a type of affordable housing. Officers advised that First Homes would be unlikely to be an appropriate form of affordable housing in Westminster due to the cost of housing in many parts of the city. Officers are working on the council’s position on First Homes.
4.5 Members held a discussion regarding imposing a deadline for the submission of late representations to Planning Sub-Committees and were advised by officers that a transitional period would need to be factored before a cut off period is introduced. Members were informed that deadlines for late representations could be reviewed and formalised as part of the ‘Statement of Community Involvement’. Members were advised that clear protocols which provided guidance and timeframes would be required and were informed that this area was potentially an area that could be subject to legal challenge should clear protocols not be adopted.
4.6 Members agreed that a pilot scheme should take place before deadlines for late representations are adopted and that the new process would need to be embedded and carefully worded. Members agreed that Ward Councillors should also be encouraged to adhere to these deadlines and that the Chair should retain some discretion regarding accepting late representations. Members agreed that the proposed process should be fair and should guard against attempts to delay determinations.
1. Members noted the contents of the report and noted the recent changes to national planning policy and guidance and the implications these have for planning decision making in Westminster, as detailed in the report.
2. That Officers explore introducing a deadline for late representations being submitted to Planning Applications Sub-Committees.
3. That prior approval applications for change of use from Class E to residential be included in the Weekly List
Publication date: 29/08/2023
Date of decision: 30/03/2022
Decided at meeting: 30/03/2022 - Planning & City Development Committee