Planning in the UK

An Introduction

by Clara Greed with David Johnson

Significant Changes in Planning Chapter-by-Chapter June 2016

Chapter 2 : Development Plans


The legal changes discussed above mainly relate to England (following devolution) and London in particular, although the overall policy trends are echoed throughout the UK. The main aspects of the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, which are the embodiment of Conservative-party planning policy, can be found at http:

In England, the legislative changes mainly relate to the nature of development planning at the local plan level, and there is no significant regional level of planning anymore. LEPS (Local Enterprise Partnerships) have not been seen to provide an alternative regional perspective, but they are now encouraged to produce SEPS (Strategic Economic Plans) to show how they intend to generate economic growth in their locality. However the government has been more supportive of the city level of planning, with increased devolution of planning policy powers to local elected mayors representing large conurbations as endorsed by the Cities and Local Government Act of January 2016.


The July 2015 Planning (Wales) Act introduces a National Development Framework (virtually a national plan) and powers for new Strategic Development Plans to be produced at a quasi-regional level :

Northern Ireland

In 2015 measures for the decentralisation of the planning system from central government have been initiated, with local councils becoming responsible for the production of Local Plans :


In 2015 revisions to the Scottish GPDO (General PermittedDevelopment Order) were introduced regarding permission for disabled access, telecoms installations and a range of other types of development. There is also a review of the Scottish planning system underway :

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Chapter 3 : The Control of Development

The Conservative’s promotion of LDOs (Local Development Orders) enables local planning authorities to grant planning permission to specific types of development within a defined area. They are intended to streamline the planning process by removing the need for developers to make a planning application to a local planning authority and create certainty, as well as save time and money for those involved in the planning process.

Whilst the intention of these changes in policy is to remove ‘red tape’ and to create more freedom for developers, there is in fact a need for more detailed clarification of planning policy guidance as has been provided in the original NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), resulting a range of new subsidiary guidance documents, to be found at :

The new Planning Court, which was first introduced in 2014 by the Ministry of Justice again to speed up the planning system has become more established during 2015. It deals with certain legal appeals related to planning matters, including the Judicial Review of cases. This is a complex change, and for more information. See:

The Use Classes Order system (page 40 of the book) has not been changed, although there is talk of further streamlining. The automatic right of change from commercial office use to residential has proved controversial, but in 2015 the government extended these ‘temporary conversion rights’ indefinitely.

UCO D1 (in Table 3.1, page 49) includes churches and other places of worship (such as mosques, and other non-residential institutions), whereas D2 (places of assembly and leisure) can include other subsidiary religious uses. This is another evolving area to watch.
There have been ongoing changes to PD (Permitted Development) in regards to barn conversions and use of farm buildings. Check the Planning Portal for updates.

There have been some changes to CIL (Community Infrastructure Level) and the related areas of S.106 Agreements and planning gain.
Requirements as to the amount of affordable (social) housing required in new housing developments have been reduced, particularly for sites of under 10 proposed homes. VBC (Vacant Building Credit) is one possible means of reducing a developer’s requirements.
New, nationally required space standards for new housing (as so many are so small) have been introduced. See :

In London’s most affluent residential streets there has been a lot of controversy about extending houses downwards to creat new basements for swimming pools, games rooms etc. ,There is talk of increasing control on these ‘iceberg houses’, although the planning acts do already define ‘development’ as being in, on or under the ground.

In summary, there are concerns about ‘over-development’ and urban intensification owing to population growth and housing pressures, resulting in intensive infill development and subdivision of existing residential properties, which is putting major pressures on the development management system, particularly in London.

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Chapters 5 and 6 : Industrialisation to Globalisation

Due to fears surrounding climate change, there is now an increasing emphasis upon green energy and an increasing rejection of the carbon-based fuels that were the basis of the Industrial Revolution. This was particularly expressed during the Paris World Climate Summit in 2015.

There has been a great deal of emphasis upon fracking, which has become a major planning issue as sensitive National Parks and countryside areas are likely to be invaded by the fracking industry. On the other hand, there has been a cut back in subsidies for wind turbines and solar panels, and a restriction on on-shore windfarms.

Resilience rather than sustainability has become the buzz word.

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Chapter 10 : Sustainability

Although there is an emphasis on developing brownfield land, there is also pressure to develop on green belts and farmland, a matter which has caused considerable controversy during 2015.

In December 2015, the Daily Telegraph (24.12.2015) observed that the former Prime Minister David Cameron had told his staff to ‘cut the green crap’: a memorable phrase indeed. However concerns about climate change, and major flooding events, have led to growing pressure for environmental sustainability controls to be strengthened to reign in unfettered development.

Nevertheless, the scope of planning control over the environment in the UK is being extended further into the surrounding coast and sea. In January 2016, 23 new marine conservation zones were introduced to protect marine life, covering 8000 square miles.
The process of national parks gaining planning powers from the local planning authorities in which they are located is continuing with the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, which are currently assuming planning powers.

The UN Millennium Development Goals (which were meant to be achieved by 2015) have now been replaced by a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were introduced in 2015 (UN, 2015). There are 17 SDGs covering a wider range of priorities. The aim is to achieve these by 2030:

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Chapter 11 : Regeneration

Much of the present government’s policy emphasis is upon business, urban regeneration, property development. Whilst there are some very prosperous areas in the South, there are starkly contrasted areas of persistent poverty, empty shops and lack of business investment in the North.

Vacant shop premises continue to be a problem in traditional town centres (in spite of efforts by the Portas Commission (page 247) to regenerate high streets). Increasing powers to convert un-used office and retail development to residential accommodation may solve one problem, but will likely create others.

Providing more dwelling units alone is not enough, it needs to be balanced with employment opportunities, public transport improvements and community facilities. Many local people are concerned with preserving local landmark buildings, pubs, churches and even public convenience stores, all of which can now be potentially designated ‘assets of community value’ to prevent demolition under the 2011 Localism Act. In 2015 this right continued to be tested.

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Chapter 12 : Transport Planning

Transport policy increasingly includes cycling provisions and in London a series of new Super Highway Cycle Network routes (including CS2) are being built across the capital. Whilst this should reduce cyclist accidents, there have been concerns from other road users, especially pedestrians, as to the effect of prioritising for cyclists on their own safety. Indeed, the 2013 Active Travel Act, specified that walking and cycling needs should equally be taken into account when new transportation projects are planned.

There is a continuing emphasis on reducing the UK’s dependence on cars, but it should be pointed out that half of all bus journeys take place inside London.Meanwhile many provincial towns and villages continue to lack adequate public transport, with schemes like, for example, the Bristol Metro Bus (rapid transit), which construction for began in 2015, failing to serve the surrounding commuter hinterland.

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Chapter 13 : Urban Design

A topic spanning both urban design and transport is that of shared spaces, whereby pedestrians, cyclists and motorists share the same road space. This has been much criticised by disability groups, and has been termed ‘Accidents by Design’ (as against Access by Design). Readers should keep an eye on this issue.

In the book’s companion website, there is a table on the world’s tallest buildings. In central London the main modern tall buildings (with their own nicknames) are the Gherkin (40 storeys), the Shard (72 storeys), the Cheese Grater (48 storeys), and the Walkie-Talkie (34 storeys). Readers however should keep an eye on the press for even taller buildings in the pipeline, such as Undershaft 1, which will be as tall as the Shard. In the rest of the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai remains the tallest building, with the Shanghai Tower coming in as second tallest.

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Chapter 14 : Social Aspects

A much-publicised and controversial new set of definitions categories of social class was formulated from the GBCS (Great British Class Survey) in 2015. See M. Savage (2015) Social Class in the 21st Century, London: Pelican Books for a summary.

There is also a website on the BBC where you can test to see what class you are... I did the test and came out as ‘technical middle class':

The new categories are:

Established Middle Class
Technical Middle Class
New Affluent workers
Traditional Working Class
Emerging Service Workers
Precariat (poor, unemployed)

Compare this list with the official National Statistic Office NS-SEC National Statistics Analytic classes :

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Interestingly traditional working class now only comprises around 14% of the population. Most workers are in the middle class category. The old concentrations of manual workers in the North of England have declined and only 28% of the population live in the North, with a concentration of people in London and the South East. Traditional home/work barriers are breaking down and 1 in 7 workers (4.2 million) work from home.

The aim was to base class not just upon a person’s job but also their cultural, educational and social background and interests. This contrasts with previous categorisations (as introduced in my social aspects chapter).

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Chapter 15 : Planning for Diversity

The range of different diversity and equality groups is still multiplying but the cut backs in the Welfare State and public services have meant that there are no longer dedicated teams in local authorities to cover many of these issues.

As for ‘women and planning’, new campaign groups are emerging, such as the urbanistas, a national group concerned with cities and collaboration between the professions to create change. See :

There is also the RTPI linked ‘women in planning’ internet-based network, which is organised by Charlotte Morphet. See :

In 2015 there were three women presidents, for the RTPI, RICS, RIBA, and women do seem to be achieving more prominence in the built environment professions. See :

The voluntary planning advocacy group Planning Aid has been reorganised and is now called PAE (Planning Aid England).

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Chapter 16 : Planning and Built Environment Professions

A small point worth updating in relation to the section on ‘religion and planning’ regards the problems which many churches (especially black Pentecostal mega-churches) have with finding suitable sites for new buildings. The KICC church for examplehas had such difficulty finding a place to settle The church has at last found a site, by moving out of London, ‘leapfrogging the green belt’ into premises on the edge of London at Chatham.

A policy briefing document was recently presented to Parliament with the support of the RTPI on the problems faith groups encounter in seeking planning permission. See Rogers, A. and Gale, R. (eds) (November 2015) Faith Groups and the Planning System : Policy Briefing, London: University of Roehampton, Faith and Place Network in association with AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) :

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