You will find enclosed the promised hard copy of the NORA response to the Consultation Paper on Technical Consultation on Planning.
It has been widely circulated and supported by NORA members. NORA members view with increasing alarm the steady apparently inexorable increase
in power granted to developers, both private companies and individual householders, by increasing their Permitted Development Rights.
It has the clear effect of reducing the influence of the community and the elected members of Local Planning Authorities on matter of planning.
This policy of extending Permitted Development Rights is surely the antithesis of the government policy of localism.
Government's concern to reduce unnecessary legislation considered to be restraining on development is supported, but, when the effect is
leading to undesirable proposals in the wrong place, there is resistance and anger by those seeing deterioration in their environment over
which they have had no influence.
This is further aggravated by the failure of local government to recognise the importance of enforcement, with the result that this facility
is underfunded, understaffed and treated as the Cinderella of the planning system. If ever more Permitted Development Rights are granted,
who will ensure that the specified pre-conditions are observed and implemented?
I hope these sentiments are conveyed by this response.
N.B. The following red text details the answers to the specific questions put in the Consultation Paper. To understand fully the background to the questions it may be helpful to consult the original
Time limit for taking decisions on the designation of a neighbourhood area
Question 1.1: Do you agree that regulations should require an application for a neighbourhood area designation to be determined by a
prescribed date? We are interested in the views of local planning authorities on the impact this proposal may have on them.
Some Local Planning Authorities (LPA) take an inordinate length of time to determine Neighbourhood Area Designation often giving no reasons
except shortage of staffing or complexity of issues, which delay the whole process unreasonably.
Question 1.2: If a prescribed date is supported do you agree that this should apply only where:
i) the boundaries of the neighbourhood area applied for coincide with those of an existing parish or electoral ward; and
ii) there is no existing designation or outstanding application for designation, for all or part of the area for which a new designation
Question 1.3: If a date is prescribed, do you agree that this should be 10 weeks (70 days) after a valid application is made?
If you do not agree, is there an alternative time period that you would propose?
The period should be six weeks, comparable with the ideal time designated for the determination of planning applications. Extensions should be
permissible for the Christmas-New Year closure and for the August recess.
Question 1.4: Do you support our proposal not to change the period of six weeks in which representations can be made on an application
for a neighbourhood area to be designated? If you do not, do you think this period should be shorter? What alternative time period
would you propose?
The current 21 days for responses to planning applications is often too short. Neighbourhood Plans clearly affect many more residents and
businesses than a planning application, so the six weeks period is appropriate.
Question 1.5: We are interested in views on whether there are other stages in the neighbourhood planning process where time limits may be
beneficial. Where time limits are considered beneficial, we would also welcome views on what might be an appropriate time period for
local planning authority decision taking at each stage.
Question 1.6: Do you support the removal of the requirement in regulations for a minimum of six weeks consultation and publicity before a
neighbourhood plan or Order is submitted to a local planning authority?
There must be ample time for all those likely to be affected by the proposed Plan to have the time to study the proposals and decide whether or
not to register any comments or concerns. Any shorter period of time especially at holiday times could unfairly affect residents and businesses.
Question 1.7: Do you agree that responsibility for publicising a proposed neighbourhood plan or Order, inviting representations and notifying
consultation bodies ahead of independent examination should remain with a local planning authority? If you do not agree, what alternative
proposals do you suggest, recognising the need to ensure that the process is open, transparent and robust?
The LPA would ensure a proper consultation and even though it may place an extra burden on the LPA, it will parallel the system already in
place that allows for appropriate examination of planning applications. It should avoid criticisms that might otherwise arise were other
bodies to undertake the task and possibly omit adequate opportunities for those affected by the proposals.
Question 1.8: Do you agree that regulations should require those preparing a neighbourhood plan proposal to consult the owners of sites they
consider may be affected by the neighbourhood plan as part of the site assessment process? If you do not agree, is there an alternative approach
that you would suggest that can achieve our objective?
It must be so as with any planning application. Also residents adjacent to areas designated for development and relevant active residents
associations must be included in the consultation process.
Question 1.9: If regulations required those preparing a neighbourhood plan proposal to consult the owners of sites they consider may be
affected by the neighbourhood plan as part of the site assessment process, what would be the estimated cost of that requirement to you or your
organisation? Are there other material impacts that the requirement might have on you or your organisation? We are also interested in your views
on how such consultation could be undertaken and for examples of successful approaches that may have been taken.
The costs are unknown to us but they surely would be comparable to the costs of the current regime for consultation for individual planning
Introducing an additional basic condition to test the extent of consultation
Question 1.10: Do you agree with the introduction of a new statutory requirement (basic condition) to test the nature and adequacy of the
consultation undertaken during the preparation of a neighbourhood plan or Order? If you do not agree, is there an alternative approach that
you would suggest that can achieve our objective?
Whilst a check on the adequacy of the consultation process might be desirable, it is difficult to see how this would work. It is likely to
be costly and engage much time of planning officers, who, because of staff reductions, are already seriously stretched to provide the necessary
service for planning applications.
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Question 1.11: Do you agree that it should be a statutory requirement that either: a statement of reasons, an environmental report, or an
explanation of why the plan is not subject to the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive must accompany a
neighbourhood plan proposal when it is submitted to a local planning authority?
A Neighbourhood Plan may lead to a significant effect on the environment in terms of loss of amenity such as noise, pollution, loss of the
natural features, etc., and when this is a serious possibility one or other of the recommendations merit inclusion in the proposals.
Question 1.12: Aside from the proposals put forward in this consultation document are there alternative or further measures that would improve
the understanding of how the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 apply to neighbourhood plans? If there are such
measures should they be introduced through changes to existing guidance, policy or new legislation?
Question 1.13: We would like your views on what further steps we and others could take to meet the Government's objective to see more
communities taking up their right to produce a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order. We are particularly interested in
hearing views on:
• stages in the process that are considered disproportionate to the purpose, or any unnecessary requirements that could be removed
• how the shared insights from early adopters could support and speed up the progress of others
• whether communities need to be supported differently
• innovative ways in which communities are funding, or could fund, their neighbourhood planning activities.
One serious problem arises when there is conflict between a Parish or Town Council and a Neighbourhood Forum in which the
Council refuses to agree to allow the Forum to proceed. An independent appeal mechanism should resolve this dispute and avoid continuing
Question 1.14: Are there any further comments that you wish to make in response to this section?
Reducing planning regulations to support housing, high streets and growth
Would you like to respond to the consultation on reducing planning regulations to support housing, high streets and growth?
A key issue, that appears to be absent from this Consultation Paper, is the importance of ensuring a 'good standard of amenity'.
One of the twelve Core Planning Principles in the National Planning Policy Framework is: 'always seek to secure high quality design and a good
standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings', a principle we have understood to be a vital planning
concept, which had always to be considered in weighing its importance against whatever development proposal was being considered. There is no
clear definition of 'a good standard of amenity', but it needs to include the environment in which the proposals are to take place.
The amenity of those likely to occupy the development as well as those adjacent to it needs to be considered in the assessment of any
development. Accordingly in considering residential development this may include supporting facilities needed by residents such as access to
shopping, schools, medical services, open space, etc. It is generally a matter left to the discretion of planning committees when respondents
to a planning application claim a loss of amenity with a change of use or the failure of a developer of new build to provide a good standard of
This principle is always important when LPAs determine planning applications, so it is surprising that these proposals reducing planning
regulations restrict the LPA's prior approval matters to 'visual amenity, highways and transport, traffic management, noise levels and
flooding risks' in reference to permitted development with prior approval (para. 2.14) and to 'transport and highways impacts,
contamination risks, flooding risks and the design and external appearance of the building' in reference to changes of use. 'A good
standard of amenity' is not mentioned, and the serious problem of noise (2.37) is omitted in reference to changes of use.
It is the failure to include this issue in the proposals that has led to the cogent criticism of this chapter on de-regulation of the planning
process, a regime that has hitherto been responsible for maintaining the high standard of decision making by LPAs. It gives added weight to
the view that this further de-regulation continues the apparent inexorable process of diminishing the influence of residents and increasing the
power of developers in the planning process. It is in conflict with the government's promise to support localism and give more power to the
Increasing Housing Supply
Question 2.1: Do you agree that there should be permitted development rights for:
(i) light industrial (B1(c)) buildings and
(ii) storage and distribution (B8) buildings to change to residential (C3) use?
Residential accommodation is not just the provision of space for residence. Sustainable communities need a variety of supporting elements such
as appropriate transport services, shopping facilities, schools, medical services, and open space for recreation. Most of the particular
premises quoted are sited on industrial or business parks, which lack these facilities. Furthermore the adjacent remaining commercial facilities
are highly likely to prove unacceptable to residents on several grounds including noise especially at night, traffic, malodours, waste
Accordingly planning applications should be required for changes of use from Class B1(c) and B8. On the rare occasions that the sites are
appropriate, relevant planning applications would surely be supported and granted without delay.
Question 2.2: Should the new permitted development right:
(i) include a limit on the amount of floor space that can change use to residential
(ii) apply in Article 1(5) land i.e. land within a National Park, the Broads, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an area designated as a
conservation area, and land within World Heritage Sites and
(iii) should other issues be considered as part of the prior approval, for example the impact of the proposed residential use on neighbouring
(i) limit on floor space........................... Yes.
(ii) apply in Article 1(5) land ................. Yes.
(iii) other prior approval issues .......... Yes.
If this permitted development right were granted, all these matters would be appropriately covered by adequate and rigorous prior approval
provided 'a good standard of amenity' was included in the assessment.
On the other hand these matters would also be properly covered were planning consent required.
Anyway Article 1(5) land should not be included in permitted development rights, since the land is protected in order to ensure its use and
appearance are appropriate to its designation such as 'Conservation Area, etc.'
Question 2.3: Do you agree that there should be permitted development rights, as proposed, for laundrettes, amusement arcades/centres, casinos
and nightclubs to change use to residential (C3) use and to carry out building work directly related to the change of use?
When amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs sited in shopping streets fall into dis-use, there are few alternative commercial uses that might
be suitable, so conversion to residential use might be considered. Internal changes to the premises may be feasible and acceptable, but
Building Regulations will still need to be observed. External changes to the premises might be damaging to the environment and amenity of
adjacent properties, so involvement of planning officers would be wise. On the other hand serious traffic problems could well arise were
residents to own vehicles in areas without adequate parking facilities.
The inclusion of launderettes is curious. These are usually to be found either in residential areas or in shopping streets, usually of a size
of a retail unit, so it comes as a surprise to find they are graded as 'sui generis' and not in Use Class A1.
They are of direct benefit to the aged and poorer members of the community, and should conversion to residential use be commercially profitable,
it would be wrong to facilitate or encourage this change of use. On the other hand, should they cease to be used by residents, they do not
need to be granted a permitted development right, since the granting of planning consent should enjoy the same consideration given to premises
in Use Class A1.
Question 2.4: Should the new permitted development right include:
(i) a limit on the amount of floor space that can change use to residential and
(ii) a prior approval in respect of design and external appearance?
If this permitted development right is granted, prior approval is essential to consider the impact on adjacent users of a large premises
becoming residential in a particular area, and certainly any changes in external appearance should be open to management by planning officers
and to representations by neighbouring concerns. But this should include amenity value as well.
As explained in the response to Question 2.1 the Core Principle of 'seeking to secure.....a good standard of amenity for all existing and future
occupants of land and buildings' is essential in deciding whether commercial premises should be permitted to change to residential use. The
planning process is specifically designed to try to ensure that the interests of developers and others are dealt with in a fair and reasonable
The weight given to ensuring a 'good standard of amenity' in relation to meeting the 'demand for housing' cannot be impartially assessed by the
developer, and it needs the involvement of the relevant community and the relevant LPA. Furthermore the success or otherwise of the temporary
measure due to end in May 2016 has yet to be assessed, so it is premature to consider perpetuating it for ever. No data has been provided to
indicate how useful the de-regulation has been.
Accordingly if this permitted development right is to be granted, prior approval is essential for this to happen, and the factors to be
considered by LPAs listed in 2.42 "highways and transport," etc. are insufficient because they omit the consideration of amenity and the
potential impact on neighbours.
Question 2.5: Do you agree that there should be a permitted development right from May 2016 to allow change of use from offices (B1(a)) to
Again no evidence has been provided about the demand for this facility. The media report that Councils in London have introduced Article 4
Directions to prevent the change, where no doubt with the high price of housing such changes could be highly profitable but at the expense of
the vitality of their commercial areas. No evidence that this would be useful in the provinces has been published to support this
In many towns and cities upper floors above retail outlets have been successfully converted into small flats, especially for residents without
cars. Turning whole commercial buildings into residential use without adequate parking facilities will cause traffic problems. If parking is
provided, it will add to the congestion already present in most towns and cities, and conflict with local planning policies restricting
vehicular access to town and city centres with the aim of reducing congestion and pollution.
Question 2.6: Do you have suggestions for the definition of the prior approval required to allow local planning authorities to consider the
impact of the significant loss of the most strategically important office accommodation within the local area?
If this proposal is enacted prior approval must include assessment whether the change of use will provide 'a good standard of amenity' to
include noise, traffic, access to medical care and to schooling.
Question 2.7: Do you agree that the permitted development rights allowing larger extensions for dwelling houses should be made permanent?
No evidence has been provided to support that this change has been helpful. We do not know how many extensions have been built as a result of
this permitted development, how many led to representations by neighbours, how many required considerable efforts by LPAs to resolve differences,
nor how much time was spent by LPAs on prior approvals in comparison with the time that would have been spent on planning applications.
Representations are restricted just to adjoining neighbours, which excludes those living on sloping ground whereby an extension can loom over
houses at lower levels. This omission could result in conflict between neighbours, a problem that would not arise if this restriction was
removed and representation allowed to all residents likely to be affected by extensions.
Supporting a mixed and vibrant high street
Question 2.8: Do you agree that the shops (A1) use class should be broadened to incorporate the majority of uses currently within the financial
and professional services (A2) use class?
Question 2.9: Do you agree that a planning application should be required for any change of use to a betting shop or a pay day loan shop?
Question 2.10: Do you have suggestions for the definition of pay day loan shops, or on the type of activities undertaken, that the regulations
Question 2.11: Do you agree that there should be permitted development rights for:
(i) A1 and A2 premises and
(ii) laundrettes, amusement arcades/centres, casinos and nightclubs to change use to restaurants and cafés (A3)?
Changes of the use of premises to Use Class A3 in moderation can be acceptable in shopping streets, but some control on the proportion of
premises in Use Class A3 is essential in order to avoid damaging the image of the shopping street as a shopping street. This is particularly
the case in towns and cities with streets that have only a small number of retail premises, whereby a dramatic change of the whole street and
area can result, so that it is no longer a shopping street.
In addition some control on the hours of opening is required particularly in areas of mixed use where there are residents living in the vicinity
especially when they occupy flats above the premises. Accordingly were permitted development rights granted to premises in Use Class A1 and A2,
an option to control hours of use must be included.
We are aware that premises seeking premises licences for the sale of alcohol would, however, be subject to control of hours to which
representations can be made.
Another sequel to the appearance of cafés and restaurants in a shopping street is the addition of pavement seating that follows should the width
of pavements be adequate. The whole ambience of the street will change if too many shops acquire Use Class A3 status and include pavement
seating, and this can damage adjacent retail trade.
On the other hand changes from casinos, night clubs and amusement arcades might be an improvement, but again it depends on their siting and
their size. Launderettes are a different matter, since they may be in close association with residential dwellings. There could be noise and
nuisance in the evenings especially if pavement seating were to appear, which would disturb the peace and quiet they enjoy.
In order to ensure that the environment is respected involvement of the LPA and the community is essential. This is either achieved by planning
applications or prior approval by the LP with adequate provision for the community to represent its views.
Question 2.12: Do you agree that there should be permitted development rights for A1 and A2 uses, laundrettes, amusement arcades/centres and
nightclubs to change use to assembly and leisure (D2)?
Yes and No.
We regard amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs as leisure facilities, so we see no obvious reason why they should not be able to change
the style of their leisure facility.
But launderettes are a different matter for the reasons expressed in the answers to Questions 2.3 and 2.11. Unless they are no longer
required by residents, it is unwise to facilitate or encourage changes to leisure facilities. If they are in residential areas introducing
activity out of normal shopping hours could cause considerable nuisance to residents from noise of people and noise of traffic in areas that
are normally peaceful and quiet.
Supporting retail facilities
Question 2.13: Do you agree that there should be a permitted development right for an ancillary building within the curtilage of an existing
This proposal is supported provided the conditions listed in paragraph 2.74 are imposed. Without these condition problems will arise.
An ancillary building may or may not be appropriate because the siting of existing shops is so variable. Where they are detached it may be
practical but its relationship to adjacent properties may be important. Where the shops are in terraces, such uncontrolled development could
Where the shops are on an out-of-town-centre site, such extensions if used for extra sales as distinct from providing 'click-and-collect'
services, there may be a harmful effect on high street retail outlets, which would be contrary to the stated policy of these
Question 2.14: Do you agree that there should be a permitted development right to extend loading bays for existing shops?
Provided the conditions listed in paragraph 2.75 are included there is no concern.
If they are not included, the argument against this proposal is the same argument explained in the answer to Question 2.13, and it is repeated
The extension of loading bays may or may not be appropriate because the siting of existing shops is so variable. Where they are detached it
may be practical but its relationship to adjacent properties may be important. Where the shops are in terraces, such uncontrolled development
could cause havoc.
Where the shops are on an out-of-town-centre site, such extensions if used for extra sales as distinct from providing 'click-and-collect'
services, there may be a harmful effect on high street retail outlets, which would contrary to the stated policy of these proposals.
Accordingly some control of this proposal is needed. The options are still to retain LPA control either by planning applications or prior
Question 2.15: Do you agree that the permitted development right allowing shops to build internal mezzanine floors should be increased from 200
If this proposal could be restricted to properties in town and city centres then it might be acceptable, but to allow out-of-town-centre stores
to double their sales area would be disastrous for many central shopping areas. It would conflict with the policy of supporting town and city
Question 2.16: Do you agree that parking policy should be strengthened to tackle on-street parking problems by restricting powers to set maximum
A major concern for most town and city centres is traffic congestion and its attendant pollution, and it is this that has led to control of town
and city centre parking.
Surely where this is the case, it is the park-and-ride (P&R) service that needs to be encouraged and subsidized to persuade shoppers to leave
their cars outside the town and city centres. P&R sites outside towns should provide information and toilet facilities to make them an
The problem is not universal, so in many towns and cities there may be room for extra parking facilities In some there is no room for a
multi-storey car park and a P&R solution is not feasible, so access to cars is vital to ensure viability of the retail facility. If this
provision is abused, however, it will only introduce the serious problems of congestion and pollution to places that are free of these problems.
In view of this variability, it is surely wise to leave Parking Policies to LPAs. If the recent Consultation Paper on The Right to Challenge
Parking Policy is agreed and implemented, it would entitle the local residents and businesses to seek changes where the relevant policy merits
Question 2.17: Do you agree that there should be a new permitted development right for commercial film and television production?
This gives an unacceptable degree of intrusion, temporary development and public nuisance - noise, traffic, and obstruction - that could
seriously affect the viability and vitality of crucial areas of retail activity and damage residential amenity.
Accordingly it is essential that LPAs retain the power to grant and manage or to refuse any facility sought by the visual media in their
Question 2.18: Do you agree that there should be a permitted development right for the installation of solar PV up to 1MW on the roof of
This is approved provided the conditions listed are mandatory.
Question 2.19: Do you agree that the permitted development rights allowing larger extensions for shops, financial and professional services,
offices, industrial and warehouse buildings should be made permanent?
This is approved provided the listed conditions are mandatory.
Question 2.20: Do you agree that there should be a new permitted development right for waste management facilities to replace buildings,
equipment and machinery?
Question 2.21: Do you agree that permitted development rights for sewerage undertakers should be extended to include equipment housings?
Question 2.22: Do you have any other comments or suggestions for extending permitted development rights?
Implementing the proposals
Question 2.23: Do you have any evidence regarding the costs or benefits of the proposed changes or new permitted development rights, including
any evidence regarding the impact of the proposal on the number of new betting shops and pay day loan shops, and the costs and benefits, in
particular new openings in premises that were formerly A2, A3, A4 or A5?
Article 4 Directions
Question 2.24: Do you agree:
(i) that where prior approval for permitted development has been given, but not yet implemented, it should not be removed by
subsequent Article 4 direction and
(ii) should the compensation regulations also cover the permitted development rights set out in the consultation?
These proposals place unfair burden on LPAs and in effect on the council taxpayer, and they should not be pursued.
Question 2.25: Are there any further comments that you wish to make in response to this section?
NORA members have two important concerns with the current planning regime.
They wish to register their serious concern that the balance of power in the equation of developers, LPAs and the community is slowly becoming
weighted too heavily in the direction of developers and denying the community an appropriate level of involvement in the planning process.
It reduces the ability of LPAs and the community to ensure that all development provides 'a good standard of amenity'. Short-term expedient
decisions can have a disastrous effect, and it is the long-term vision that must be considered and respected. Accordingly it is vital that we
protect our environment in the interests of our descendants.
The second concern is the failure of most LPAs to ensure that the local enforcement facility is adequate to meet the need. With cogent
conditions on Permitted Development Rights and important provisos limiting the Rights, who is to monitor the regime?
The Enforcement Service appears to be regarded as the Cinderella of the planning system. It is under-funded, under-staffed and under-resourced.
Reliance on the public to report apparent breaches of the planning system may be essential, but if enforcement officers cannot attend to such
reports because they do not have the time to do so, what's the point of all the careful and time-consuming planning of our planners?
3. Would you like to respond to the consultation on improving the use of planning conditions?
4.Would you like to respond to the consultation on planning application process improvements?
5.Would you like to respond to the consultation on Environmental Impact Assessment Thresholds?
6. Would you like to respond to the consultation on streamlining consents for nationally significant infrastructure projects?