The UK planning system is always evolving and 2011 was no exception. However, as forward-thinking professionals, Pure Town Planning prefer to apply our minds to the year ahead than to review that just gone. So what does 2012 offer in terms of change in planning?

Perhaps the most significant event we can look forward to in 2012 is the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework – the only question is how long it will take the Government to adopt a final version. I think we can probably expect a new consultation draft fairly early in the new year with a final document not issued until the summer. Unfortunately I think we can also expect some toning down of the relatively pro-development emphasis of the first draft to appease the National Trust and Tory back-benches.

The Localism Bill was enacted in November 2011 and many provisions such as Neighbourhood Plans immediately came into force. The full implications of these will become apparent throughout 2012. I suspect that Neighbourhood Plans will quietly disappear into the ether – take-up is likely to be very low as Neighbourhood groups realise the level of work involved and the very significant constraints on what they can “plan”. I don’t think Local Authorities will actively promote their use. Presumably other sections of the Localism Bill, such as the revocation of Regional Spatial Strategies, developer’s duty to consult before submitting major applications and strengthening of enforcement powers, will commence at some point in 2012 – we await the Secretary of State’s Commencement Orders.

It remains to be seen what will come of the various other matters the Government has been consulting on including those announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. We can at least expect a review of the appeals process which will probably conclude that the appeals system is about as efficient as one can expect under the current funding regime but no doubt some tweaks will be proposed anyway.

Turning to the local level, with the certainty of the final demise of the Regional Spatial Strategies we can perhaps see some thawing of the glacial progress on Core Strategies in some authorities. Expect plenty of new consultations this year – I will provide updates as they arise.

The other thing developers need to be aware of is that Local Authorities in the area will begin to make progress on the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) with a few probably adopted this year. This charge, basically a tax on development (and largely residential development), replaces the various Section 106 contributions. It is important to note that unlike Section 106 contributions it will not be negotiable and it is calculated on the basis of new floorspace. The Borough of Poole is amongst the most advanced in this area and is currently consulting on a new charge on residential development of up to £150 per sqm  – consultation closes 03 February. Southampton and Havant also have current consultations with one due in New Forest District later this month. Developers are advised to pay close attention to commencement of CIL as it may well be worth securing or renewing planning permission under the Section 106 regime if CIL is going to increase costs. If you are concerned about how CIL may affect your sites call Pure Town Planning.

*UPDATE – see our post on CIL here with links to a more detailed Briefing Note.

2012 promises to be another interesting year in planning – the only real certainty is that things are not going to get any more straightforward for developers. Luckily however this year you now have Pure Town Planning to help guide you through!

Happy New Year.