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Changes to the planning system to restrict the expansion of out-of-town retail floorspace and to encourage improved...
Changes to the planning system to restrict the expansion of out-of-town retail floorspace and to encourage improved design, were announced by Planning Minister Yvette Cooper today.

The measures are the latest step in the government's ongoing reform of the planning system to make the planning system more effective and provide more certainty for communities and developers alike. The package of changes will mean that:

* Most types of planning application will now have to be accompanied by a design and access statement. This will explain how high quality design and issues such as disabled access have been addressed in the proposal and more importantly help LPAs ensure new developments are of a high quality. This will give local communities a greater understanding of what is proposed, what might eventually be built and therefore a greater opportunity to contribute to the planning process.

* Increases in the internal retail floorspace of 200 square metres or more will be brought under planning control. This will include mezzanines in large retail stores, which had previously been used to expand floorspace in out of town developments without planning permission. This will boost local planning authorities (LPAs) ability to promote the vitality and viability of town centres and prevent inappropriate development.

* Local Development Orders will enable LPAs to grant planning permission in advance for certain types of development, removing the need for developers to submit individual planning applications. For example, they may choose to do so to promote the rejuvenation of a particular site or to extend what householders are permitted to do, thus freeing up resources so that authorities can focus on more significant developments.

* A change to the determination period for a major application means that LPAs will now have 13 weeks - an increase of 5 weeks - to determine a major application before an applicant can appeal on the basis of non-determination. This will give more time to consider the views of the community and to ensure that better and more considered decisions are taken for major planning proposals.

Yvette Cooper said:

'These reforms are about strengthening the role of design in the planning system, making sure planners take proper account of peoples access needs and strengthening town centres.

'High quality design needs to be at the heart of the planning system.

These changes mean that both developers and local planning authorities will have to give proper consideration to design and access before they start. This will help improve the quality of new buildings and spaces.

'Some out of town retailers have been using mezzanines for substantial expansions, without knowing how this impacts on town centres. Up until now, local planning authorities could do nothing about it. These changes will help them support their town centres regeneration.'

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