Planning magazine asks whether measures put forward in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill will be effective in tackling the imposition of 'overly restrictive and unnecessary' conditions? Two proposals are put forward in the bill. The first would prohibit pre-commencement conditions from being imposed without the prior written agreement of the applicant. The second would effectively enable the secretary of state to ban the use of conditions in "targeted circumstances".
Sara Whelan, policy manager at the Planning Officers Society, said she feared that the assertions in the consultation document - which cites "continuing concerns" about councils' use of conditions - "could be based on anecdotal evidence".
Whelan warned that the plan to require the written agreement of the applicant for pre-commencement conditions could lead to challenging discussions. "Developers could take advantage of this and push back on conditions that may be appropriate," she said.
Whelan added that the proposal could demand more detailed work earlier in the process and may lead to an increase in appeals. The proposal would "bring an opportunity to contest a condition at an earlier stage", she said. Currently, she said, applicants who wish to challenge a condition typically do so once permission is granted. She added that, under the proposals, if agreement cannot be reached on a condition thought necessary by the town hall, the council would be forced to refuse the application, and the developer could appeal.
Whelan said that the proposal represented "quite a power grab". What is missing from the consultation, she said, is an understanding that conditions can help overcome local political sensitivities about development. Conditions can help make decisions "more palatable" for councillors, she said.