Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: Consultation on implementation of plan-making reforms

While the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill was in its final parliamentary stages, the Government published a consultation on possible ways of implementing the changes in the planning system embodied therein. Among many changes in the 500+ page Bill (now having received the Royal Assent known as the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act (LURA)) a significant one impacting Epsom was the proposal to change the Local Plan process and timetable, including the transitional arrangements.

LURA enacts a requirement for Local Plans to be produced in a 30-month timetable, preceded by a four-month period for each Local Planning Authority (LPA) to collect a standard evidence base, establish a budget and timetable and have this approved by the relevant Council. Thereafter a number of progress reviews, including a Planning Inspector, are mandated, to minimise risk of the plan being “unsound” and reduce the time taken for final Examination at the end. Following acceptance of the Local Plan, there will be new monitoring arrangements.

Under the transitional arrangements, each LPA without a current Local Plan (like Epsom) is being given until July 2025 to submit its Plan for Examination, and formally adopt the approved Plan by 31st December 2026. Failure to do so would mean the LPA would have to start again from scratch to a 30-month timetable, using the new processes,  documentation and digital systems. This would both increase the overall cost and extend the period of vulnerability to inappropriate development under the “presumption for sustainable development” under paragraph 11d of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

For this reason EEBC has recently agreed in an extraordinary meeting of the full Council to “un-pause” our Local Plan under the current process in attempt to meet the June 2025 deadline.

For those with interest and fortitude, the actual consultation document can be found here.

The Society’s highly critical response thereto can be seen here.

In summary, it appears that the Department for Levelling-up Housing and Local Communities is behaving like a wild animal thrashing around in a trap of its own making, lacking any clear vision as to how the 300,000 houses per annum target it set itself could be delivered and failing to recognise its own contribution to under-delivery in the Home Counties and other places where the need is greatest, together with its very limited capability to overcome market forces working against it.