Take-aways from the Planning Conference 2017
Aptly timed on National Clean Air Day, the planning team at Shakespeare Martineau held their first ever Birmingham-based planning conference to discuss the Government’s Air Quality Plan and what the implications are for developers and local planning authorities. In addition, following the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 receiving Royal Assent on April 2017, the team discussed neighbourhood planning and its impact on housing supply with the 50-strong audience.
Why is it important?
With topics such as Air Quality and Neighbourhood Planning likely to impact planning decision-making for the foreseeable future, not just on isolated developments, but across the wider real estate market, there was no better time to bring the regulatory requirements, solutions and practical advice to the fore.
Simon Stanion, head of planning at the firm, said:
“Although the firm is well known for its planning expertise, the new wave of planning lawyers based out of the Birmingham office means that we are able to bring our advice closer to a lot of our clients. The arrival of Ian, Leenamari and Louise couldn’t have come at a better time to help advise our clients on new regulation and the challenges developers and local planners are facing due to Brexit.”
Those with direct experience of the planning system often feel that neighbourhood plans are designed to stifle development – the complete opposite of what the Government was hoping to achieve. However, since the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 became law on 27 April, the Government is seeking to expand and strengthen the neighbourhood planning system with the hope of increasing housing supply. For local planning authorities and developers, this means that neighbourhood plans are set to grow in importance over the coming years and now is the time to prepare.
Many developers fear that as more communities are able to decide where the want new homes to be built and what they want them to look like, there could be an increasing number of planning refusals.
As well as communities having input on location and design, they will also be able to have their say on what local amenities are required, such as shops, offices and local infrastructure.
According to the Housing White Paper, however, neighbourhood planning will actually boost housing supply. There is surprisingly little evidence to back up this claim, however, and with ‘Nimbyism’ taking hold of many local communities, the proof will certainly be in the delivery.
It will be crucial for local developers and planning authorities to engage with communities, ensuring that submitted plans incorporate the community voice, as well as taking into consideration the increased need for new housing.
If the widespread adoption of neighbourhood plans doesn’t lead to more houses being built there is a real danger that the Government will fail to achieve its goals.
It is well-known that air pollution poses significant health risks. The annual health cost to society of the impacts of particulate matter alone is estimated to be up to £25.7m. More locally however, over 500 people die from pollution-related conditions in Birmingham each year and therefore the focus on air quality improvements will be significant across the city.
Highlighted as a location in need of serious attention, the team discussed the likely changes facing the city, including implications for new developments, infrastructure projects and traffic levels throughout the city centre, for example.
Improving air quality is vital in ensuring sustainable development and economic growth. Maintaining or contributing to air quality levels that are acceptable to EU limits and prevent unacceptable risks caused by pollution form central pillars of the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Practice Guidance.
Recent scrutiny of the Government’s Air Quality Plan has highlighted that the proposals put forward by the Government have fallen short of the legal requirements. As a result, this has created further difficulties for local planning authorities and developers.
These legal requirements have two main conditions, which have not yet been suitably addressed. Firstly, it must be demonstrated that adequate modelling of the impact on air quality has been undertaken, and secondly, that any proposed mitigating measures are appropriate.
Moving forward, development proposals will be refused unless robust data on the impacts on air quality and mitigation measures are submitted with applications.
If you missed the conference but want to hear more from our experts, contact: