To condition, or not to condition, that is the question.
This week saw the new Regulations regarding pre-commencement conditions come into force (1st October). It is worth noting at the outset that the changes do not apply to ‘Outline’ planning permissions.
The new rules seek to ensure that pre-commencement conditions are used sparingly and, importantly, can only be attached to a grant of planning permission with the express agreement of the applicant.
The change means that Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) intending to attach pre-commencement conditions are now required to serve notice to the applicant, detailing:
- The proposed pre-commencement condition wording;
- Full reasons for the proposed condition; and
- Reasoning as to why the condition must be fulfilled prior to commencement on site.
Applicants then have 10 days to respond, either agreeing to or challenging the condition. Failure on the part of applicants to respond within this timeframe will mean that LPAs have deemed consent to attach the pre-commencement condition to their decision.
The intention of all this is to reduce the time taken between a grant of approval and an applicant being able to start on site.
Therefore, opportunities to reduce the number of conditions (and pre-commencements, in particular) attached to a consent have been strengthened. But this will require meaningful engagement in the planning application determination process, with support from the technical team, to either challenge the authority or provide earlier information to deal with the issues raised.
Conversely, it has been suggested that the result could simply be to cause delays earlier in the planning process; with more time required to agree or challenge intended pre-commencement conditions. Another possible unintended outcome could be a spike in the number of Planning Appeals; as applicants, disagreeing with proposed conditions, seek remedy from the Secretary of State, or LPA’s refuse consent in cases where key pre-commencement conditions are not agreed.
Therefore, it may not always be in the best interests to decline the LPA’s request to impose a pre-commencement condition, particularly if it goes to the heart of the consent.
A tactical approach may be best in certain circumstances.
As noted at the outset, these Regulations changes do not apply to ‘Outline’ planning permissions
NJL Consulting is an established and knowledgeable planning consultancy who advises a range of UK wide clients, and can provide clear helpful advice on this and other planning matters.