KIRKLEES businesses have been urged to take heed of changes to the planning system after the controversial Localism Bill finally became law late last year.
Miranda Steadman, senior planner at property agency CBRE in West Yorkshire, said: “Several changes to the planning system will occur in early 2012.
“Looking firstly at The Localism Act, the introduction of Neighbourhood Planning means that local communities are immediately allowed to prepare plans relating to issues such as the provision of new homes, amenities and offices and the protection of green spaces.
“This creates a whole new tier of the planning system.
“However, with the Neighbourhood Planning process still in its infancy there are many questions about how this will work and for whom.
“Separate to the Localism Act, but additionally from early 2012, local planning authorities will be able to take into account ‘financial considerations’ in making decisions on applications.
“These are defined as grants from the Government or sums payable to the local authority under the Community Infrastructure Levy.
“The CIL allows local authorities to set their own charges on new development in their area which can be spent on local infrastructure.
“Criticised by some as giving developers and local planning authorities an opportunity to buy and sell permissions, the new provisions will allow developers to make use of the New Homes Bonus, whereby local authorities will be rewarded by central Government for granting permission for new homes to help secure support for their proposals.”
Ms Steadman said: “The ‘carrot’ of the New Homes Bonus will effectively replace the ‘stick’ of regionally imposed housing targets when the Regional Spatial Strategies are abolished – which is likely to be completed in spring.
“Until then, developers and investors whose development proposals find support in Regional Strategies should seriously consider pushing on with application, making every effort to secure a decision before revocation.
“Once revoked, there will no longer be any ‘top down’ housing requirements and these will be replaced by a ‘Duty to Co-operate’ between local authorities in plan preparation. At the moment, there is no guidance on what this actually means and how this will work.”
Ms Steadman said businesses should also be aware that Budget measures and local government cuts could affect the planning agenda.
She added: “In summary, 2012 brings about many changes to the planning system – and whilst these changes aim to improve the system moving forwards, many increase uncertainty whilst they are streamlined.”