Local plans can pass the test of soundness even where housing supply land cannot be identified for years 11 to 15

English local plans can pass the test of soundness even where housing supply land cannot be identified for years 11 to 15 of the plan period, under new planning practice guidance just published. The Government has already taken a series of steps to cut unnecessary red tape, such as the streamlined National Planning Policy Framework reducing 1,000 pages of planning guidance to less than 50, revoking the last administration’s bureaucratic regional strategies and extending permitted development rights to make it easier to get empty and under-used buildings back into public use.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has launched its finalised online planning practice resource with updated and streamlined guidance.

It follows a review by Lord Taylor in 2012 and the launch of a beta version of the website last year. This move cancels a range of previous planning guidance.

The guidance noted that, when determining applications for development on Green Belt land, a local authority's unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the Green Belt to constitute "very special circumstances" justifying inappropriate development.

The guidance also clarifies the circumstances when a local authority can consider refusing to grant planning permission on the grounds that this would be premature in relation to emerging local policy.

Planning Minister Nick Boles also announced reforms to allow change of use from shops and financial and professional services into homes without the need for planning permission as well as moves to make it easier to convert redundant farm buildings into houses.

However, this will not apply to buildings in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, a move welcomed by conservationists.

But the minister wrote in a parliamentary statement that “we expect national parks and other local planning authorities to take a positive and proactive approach to sustainable development, balancing the protection of the landscape with the social and economic wellbeing of the area”.

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