The consistent message from Government is that development and infrastructure is key to improving our recovering economy. The creation of new communities by residential led development, large mixed use schemes and town centre regeneration are on the increase. However, does the planning system provide us with the necessary tools to assist in the proper delivery of these schemes once planning permission is secured?
Securing outline planning permission for large scale development is a task in itself. Inevitably, developments with a 5, 10 or 20 year construction timetable, will evolve as the proper detail of the scheme gets sorted out by the Reserved Matters process.
It is now common place for detailed conditions to be imposed on Reserved Matter Approvals, whether this is correct or not under the existing statutory regime is a topic for another day. At the time outline planning permission is granted it is not uncommon that the LPA or developer will not know the identity of the end user of, for example, the A1, A3 or other commercial uses applied for. It is not until Reserved Matters are submitted that the nature of the use and/or operator is known and the potential effects and need to mitigate against anti-social opening hours, deliveries or noise become clear. Conditions restricting the use accordingly get imposed on the Reserved Matters Approval.
However what if these conditions are onerous or the operator changes? Where is the power to seek to amend these “conditions” or make minor alterations post Reserved Matters Approval? A Reserved Matters Approval is not a planning permission, Section 73 or S96A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 are not applicable when seeking to vary conditions imposed on Reserved Matters Approvals. This is unhelpful. The only options available are to appeal, re-apply for Reserved Matters (assuming still in time) or seek an entirely new consent. None of which offer a satisfactory solution.
With large scale and complex projects on the increase, the planning system needs to become more flexible in allowing schemes to change as the detail evolves and conditions imposed to be varied accordingly, albeit within the set parameters established at outline stage. There are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that the environmental assessment of changes still remain to be assessed if needed and that consultation takes place. The form of Reserved Matters Approval is evolving to keep pace with the complexity of development and the planning system needs to catch up.