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GOVERNMENT CALLS A HALT TO CROWN IMMUNITY FROM PLANNING CONTROL

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The Crown will no longer be immune from English planning law, under new legislation that comes into force on 7 June...
The Crown will no longer be immune from English planning law, under new legislation that comes into force on 7 June.

The changes to the planning system will mean the Crown will now have to apply for planning permission from their local planning authority, just like any other developer. The Crown will also be subject to the same rights to appeal. The secondary legislation, which was laid on 17 May, follows the earlier provisions included in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Lord's planning minister Baroness Kay Andrews said:

'The government is committed to making sure the planning system is fair and efficient and so it is right that the Crown is subjected to the same controls as private developers.

'There has been a commitment to bring to an end the Crown's immunity and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act provided us with an opportunity to make it happen.'

The changes include a revision to application procedures, a new use class for secure residential accommodation (prisons etc) and a change to the General Permitted Development Order, which gives the Crown a new set of permitted development rights similar to those enjoyed by local authorities and relevant statutory undertakers. There are also special provisions for emergencies and national security development.

Notes

1. The Crown includes government departments, executive agencies, Her Majesty's private estates, the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and the Crown Estate Commissioners. Part of the Palace of Westminster is Crown land and the remainder is treated as if it were for planning purposes. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 gives the Secretary of State power to apply existing subordinate legislation made for the purposes of the planning Acts to the Crown.

2. Currently, Crown bodies operate under a parallel version of the planning system which regulates development on their land, set out in DoE Circular 18/84. This involves consultation with local authorities and communities similar to normal planning applications.

Under Circular 18/84, Notices of Proposed Development are submitted to the LPA and treated as though they are planning applications. If the LPA disagrees with the Notice, it is referred to the secretary of state to determine the dispute and often requires a public inquiry.

3. Under the proposed changes, Crown bodies will need to apply for planning permission from their local planning authority, just like any other developer.

4. Occasionally, permission will be sought for more significant developments that could impact on communities or the environment, or those with national security implications. The proposed measures are designed to accommodate these scenarios, for instance:

* Crown developments will have to comply with the EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive to screen the effects of significant developments on the environment.

* Where a Crown body does not disclose full details of a development on the grounds of national security, and they believe that the local planning authority would turn down the application due to lack of information, they would normally ask the secretary of state to call the application in for her own decision. The secretary of state may give a direction restricting disclosure of sensitive information to certain parties during the inquiry. Those not allowed access to this material will have a special advocate to represent their interests.

* In rare circumstances where a Crown body can demonstrate a development is both of national importance and needed urgently, they may apply directly to the Secretary of State and timescales prior to a public inquiry will be shortened. Representations from all parties will still be considered and the local planning authority will still be consulted.

* A new Use Class will be created for secure residential institutions such as asylum and immigration removal centres and prisons, which would not fall into any existing use class. This change will also mean existing residential institutions cannot convert into secure establishments without seeking planning permission (or vice versa), ensuring consultation with the local authority and the community.

* Local planning authorities will be able to issue enforcement notices against Crown bodies for breaches of planning control, but will not be able to enter Crown land without permission or prosecute a Crown body for failure to comply.

5. The policy to end Crown immunity dates from the early 1990s. A consultation paper was issued in 1992 and in 1994 the then government announced its intention to end Crown immunity when a suitable legislative opportunity arose. This policy was confirmed by the present government in 1998 and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, introduced in December 2002, was the first such legislative opportunity. The Crown provisions were added to when the Bill was re-committed in October 2003, see ODPM press notice:

http:www.odpm.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2003_0104

6. Bringing the Crown within the planning system is a UK-wide exercise. All devolved administrations have been consulted on the policy and are proceeding on a similar timetable to that in England.

7. The research is available from the ODPM website www.odpm.gov.uk

The study was commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in January 2005 and was carried out by the University of Sheffield and Halcrow Group.Planning obligations are agreements made under

ss106 and 299 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as substituted by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991) and s278 of the Highways Act 1980 (as amended).A planning obligation is a legally binding contract between a developer and a local planning authority and operates alongside statutory planning permission. Thorough planning obligations, developers are required to carry out specified actions or make contributions when implementing planning permissions and are the result of negotiations on these matters between the two parties. The research considered the number of applications attracting planning obligations as well as estimating the overall value of the contribution through planning obligations. It examined the value of contributions received by local authority type, planning obligations type and region. It also looked at the share of contributions made as direct financial payments and as in kind contributions, for example as affordable housing.The aim of the report was to estimate the number of applications attracting planning obligations and to estimate the overall value of the contribution made through planning obligation s to English local authorities in one year - 2003/04. It included a survey of all English local authorities and, for a more detailed view, case study work in 42 local authorities. In December 2005, ODPM announced the Planning-Gain Supplement to capture a proportion of the uplift in land-value when planning permission is granted. These funds will work in tandem with

s106 to boost infrastructure. Further information can be found at:

http:www.odpm.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1163844

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