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Government plans to boost rural productivity

02 Sep 2015

On Thursday 20th August 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a 10 point plan to increase productivity in England's Rural Areas. This document covers a range of issues across the following headlines:

  1. Extensive, fast and reliable broadband services
  2. High quality, widely available mobile communications
  3. Modern transport connections
  4. Access to high quality education and training
  5. Expanded apprenticeships in rural areas
  6. Enterprise Zones in rural areas
  7. Better regulation and improved planning for rural businesses
  8. More housing
  9. Increased availability of affordable childcare
  10. Devolution of power

The key aspects of this document in terms of planning are the Government’s proposals to:

  • Review how permitted development rights in rural areas can support new homes, jobs and innovation.
  • Tighten the Planning Guarantee for minor schemes and strengthen the minimum performance threshold for the speed of deciding major planning applications.
  • Introduce a ‘planning certificate’ process for establishing the principle for minor development proposals.
  • Ensure Local Authorities put Local Plans in place for housing and bring forward proposals to speed up the process of implementing and amending a plan.
  • Make it easier for villages to establish Neighbourhood Plans and allocate land for new homes, including through the use of rural exception sites to deliver Starter Homes.
  • Review the current threshold for agricultural buildings to convert to residential buildings.​
  • Introduce a dispute resolution mechanism for section 106 agreements.

There are limited details provided within the document itself on the scope and implementation of these proposals.

The Planning Guarantee works alongside the 8 week statutory period and is the Government’s Policy that no application should spend more than a year with the decision maker. This means that no application should be with the Local Planning Authority for 26 weeks, allowing a further 26 weeks for a potential Appeal. If the 26 weeks are exceeded the Applicant should be refunded the planning fee unless a longer period to determine that application has been agreed. As set out within this document, the Government intends to tighten the ‘Guarantee’  time period for minor planning applications.

The current threshold to convert agricultural buildings to residential under Part 3 Class Q of the General Permitted Development Order 2015 is currently 3 per agricultural holding with a total floorspace of up to 450 m2 (e.g. 3 no. 150 m2 dwellings per agricultural holding). The Government are planning to review this threshold in order to boost the availability of housing in rural areas. Further measures to boost housing delivery include the Government’s proposals to allow Neighbourhood Plans to allocate exception sites for the delivery of Starter Homes for people who live in the area or have a family or employment connection with the area.

More details on the above measures will be announced in the coming months, with the Government publishing a ‘Call for Evidence’ in the Autumn for further reforms to permitted development rights in rural areas.

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