Set to influence many future planning applications, the Business and Planning Bill Act received Royal Assent on 22 July, and introduced a series of urgent, mostly temporary measures intended to help businesses, particularly in the hard-hit hospitality and construction sectors, to get back to work safely and quickly.
Ollie Bolderson, Maïlys Garden (nee Pineau) and Roy McGowan of Momentum Consultancy explore what impacts this seismic shift in planning regulations may have on the transport sector say there could be implications for how streets are managed and other implications for the public realm.
As part of the Act the Government is supporting businesses which sell food or drink, such as cafes, pubs and restaurants by introducing a temporary fast-track process for these businesses to obtain permission from the local council for a pavement license. These licenses enable the business to place furniture such as stalls, tables and chairs on the pavement outside their premises, enabling them to maximise their capacity whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.
This includes a capped application fee of £100, and quicker consultation and determination periods which means that businesses can obtain licences in a timely and cost-effective manner aiding their financial recovery. When granted, the licence also provides deemed planning permission for anything done by the licence-holder pursuant to the licence.
The Business and Planning Act has also introduced regulations to reform and simplify the Use Classes Order to make it easier for high street uses to change use without the need for a planning application. This will create a new broad category of ‘commercial, business and service’ uses which will allow commercial, retail and leisure uses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances and respond to the needs of their local communities.
A new community and learning class will allow for the protection of community facilities and infrastructure. Certain uses such as pubs and theatres will remain protected, while others such as hot food takeaways or betting shops will require full planning consent.
The new briefing note from consultancy Momentum sets out its understanding of what the changes to Use Classes will particularly bring to the way we plan and design for transport in urban environments.
It says: 'The Government recently laid major changes in Parliament to the Use Classes Order, which provides land owners and developers with substantially more flexibility in terms of land use provision.
Planning applications will no longer be required for Changes of Use between a wide range of retail and commercial uses, as they will all sit within the new Class E, marking a major deregulation of the planning system. Furthermore, the concept of ‘part use’ is bought into the regulations, which would allow for the change of part of a building within use Class E without requiring permission.
Car and cycle parking are currently determined using standards that relate to and differ by land use. Offices need provision of a relatively large amount of long-stay cycle parking for employees, whereas food retail needs far fewer long-stay spaces, but better short-stay provision for visitors.
Local planning authorities, and Transport for London and other regional planning authorities face new approaches to managing proposed land use. With the changes to Use Classes, we no longer know what that land use will be. Best practice will need to quickly react to ensure that thoughtfully and appropriately designed schemes are promoted, which can provide for future users as well as assuage concerns local planning authorities may have about the level of impact a scheme may have.
Where this major change leaves forthcoming Local Plans, as well as the Intent to Publish London Plan, is unknown. It could be the case that as they no longer align with national regulations, they will need to be rewritten or amended in some way, and that provide opportunity to clarify guidance and best practice, but these amendments will take a long time which will slow down this “responsive” land-use class change.
The Government has already indicated that it intends to bring forward proposals for wider reform of the planning system in the near future.