As published in Costar, Estates Gazette and Property Week on 26 September 2022.


Seven-Strong Bristol Practice CSJ Joins Alongside London Partner Recruit From JLL.

Rapleys has added CSJ, a long-established planning practice based in Bristol to its business, as well a number of other strategic hires.

Mike Orr, founder of CSJ and equity partner at Rapleys, said Rapleys was a progressive firm with clear and ambitious plans for the future.

“They share our culture and values around people and client care and I look forward to helping the partnership realise its aims in both the planning and other business divisions, particularly in the south west, from our Bristol base. I have no doubt that together we have a very bright future.”

Alex Rogerson, partner at Rapleys, added: “The Rapleys team are incredibly inclusive and I already feel established within the business. Rapleys is well known and hugely respected for its planning practice and commitment to excellent client service. It’s a very exciting time and I am keen to contribute to the delivery of the partnership’s growth plans.”


Victoria joined Rapleys in May 2022 as a Senior Planner, moving from JLL where she worked in the Planning Department for over five years. Victoria is a generalist planner with a breadth of experience across the office, industrial, retail and residential sectors leading on schemes of varying sizes. Victoria predominantly works on projects located in and surrounding London and has a particular interest in town centre development.

Victoria has vast experience in the commercial sector where she has been responsible for numerous office and industrial developments across London including new build and changes of use. Victoria has also managed a large number of town centre and retail applications where she has been responsible for the asset management of a shopping centre on behalf of British Land which has involved regular planning advice for the alternative use of retail units including the management of a large number of changes of use applications and shopfront alterations.

Victoria also specialises in office to residential development via the prior approval process, ensuring that all of her clients are informed of any changes in legislation to Permitted Development Rights. Victoria has ensured her clients have been able to utilise permitted development rights to their full potential and when advising clients of the benefits of the prior approval process she has secured the delivery of hundreds of residential units across Greater London through the prior approval process.

Victoria can offer clients reassurance when monitoring and negotiating planning applications, ensuring that regular updates are provided to the client following contact with Local Planning Authorities. Victoria will go above and beyond to ensure a successful outcome when negotiating any potential conditions and restrictions related to a planning permission.

James joined Rapleys as a Town Planning Partner and Equity Partner in May 2022. His expertise is in successfully taking forward planning proposals for large schemes; which include complex office, retail, residential and mixed-use major regeneration schemes. These all involve complex or sensitive sites, constrained by planning designations, operational requirements and other considerations.

James focuses on successfully working with local authorities to obtain permission by negotiation.  Clients for these services are predominantly developers, landowners, financial and other institutions. Examples include British Land, Grainger, Transport for London, Helical, Aviva and Imperial College London.

He provides planning strategy advice for projects, as well as assessing opportunities and constraints, submitting outline and detailed planning applications and appeals, preparing planning briefs, making representations to Development Plans to change planning policies, giving evidence at Inquiries and political engagement with councillors and MPs to maximise chances of success. James also assists in managing teams of consultants through the planning stages of the project.

James is both a planner and a surveyor, with memberships for the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Zarina joined Rapleys as a Planner in October 2021, having previously worked within the private sector on a range of retail and purpose-built student accommodation projects. Zarina also has public sector experience, primarily working on householder and minor planning applications for small-scale projects within both an urban and rural context; with a particular focus on householder development within the green belt.

Zarina’s experience has provided a solid foundation in development management, permitted development and building a strong rapport with clients, planning officers and other professionals. In her current role, Zarina creates and maintains trackers for major projects, emerging planning policies and best practice case law and appeal decisions for controversial developments. In addition, Zarina prepares site appraisals, pre-applications and planning applications and assists colleagues with major schemes.

In her role as Planner, Zarina can offer the client reassurance through maintaining consistent contact and monitoring the status of applications and negotiating planning issues throughout the planning process.


As published in Planning Resource on 12 May 2022.


On Wednesday last week, the Government unveiled a host of far-reaching changes to the planning system in its new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner shares his reaction “The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has taken on the mantle of planning reform, and it appears that only the more detailed and less politically controversial elements of the now dead Planning White Paper have survived. Amid a backbench backlash, the more radical ideas such as zoning were clearly deemed just too difficult.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Matthew is an Urban Planning MSc (Hons) graduate who joined Rapleys in the Manchester Planning Team in August 2021. He obtained his Masters degree at Sheffield University in Urban Planning.

Matthew’s role at Rapleys is preparing and submitting planning applications, focusing mainly on the retail sector, but also lawful development certificates, advertisement consents applications, discharge of conditions applications, variation of conditions and non-material amendment applications. Matthew has also gained experience in project managing and monitoring live applications and preparing detailed submission documents including Planning Statement, Design and Access Statements and Statements of Community Involvement.

As published in The Planner on 04 May 2022.

As published in Planning Resource on 11 May 2022.


Rapleys LLP, the national property and planning consultancy, is delighted to announce that James Owens will be joining the business as an Equity Partner, in the Town Planning Division, from 1 May 2022.

James will be based in the partnership’s West End, London office. He moves from JLL, where he was a Director in the Planning and Development team.

James comes with over 30 years of experience in town planning. He has advised – as a consultant – across many sectors, including residential, commercial and education, and been instructed on numerous high profile cases.

His appointment forms part of the partnership’s ongoing growth strategy and, in particular, its commitment to continue to promote the reach and profile of its long-established, and nationally recognised, town planning business.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner of Rapleys LLP, commented that “James is an acknowledged name in the planning world. He will bring a welcome, and valuable, new dimension in servicing client instructions and, further, to the growth of our town planning business in London and across the UK. I am delighted to have him on board”.

James remarked “I am really pleased to make the move. It’s an exciting opportunity. Rapleys is a progressive practice which has ambitious plans for the future. I look forward to working with Robert, and the wider partnership, to help realise them”.

Click here to contact James.

Rachael joined Rapleys in August 2021 after a spell of work at Cambridgeshire County Council. Prior to this role Rachael had worked in the education sector.

Rachael holds a Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning (MPLAN) and is working towards professional membership of the RTPI.

Rachael provides day-to-day management of planning application and appeal cases of all sizes. She is central to the coordination of project teams, and to maintaining Rapleys’ dialogue with the local planning authorities, in whose areas the business is working. Rachael is responsible for a number of her own cases as well as well as assisting colleagues with major instructions.

Ryan joined Rapleys as a Senior Planner in June 2021, and has been working as a Town Planner since 2014. Ryan has experience in working on a variety of projects across a wide range of sectors on behalf of both private and public clients, including residential, retail, hospitality, commercial, industrial and mixed use schemes.

Ryan has extensive experience in the co-ordination of planning applications and the project management of multi-disciplinary teams, and advises clients at all stages in the planning process, including the completion of site appraisals, formulation of planning strategies, representations to local plan consultations, preparation and submission of a wide range of planning application and consent types, and securing reserved matters approval.

Being commercially aware, with a strong understanding of development activity and the evolving planning legislation and policy context allows Ryan to provide sound and reliable tailored advice by working directly with the client from the initial site appraisals through to achieving planning permission.

George started his professional career at Rapleys in September 2020 as a graduate within the Town Planning team at the Manchester office. Prior to formally joining Rapleys, George completed two months of work experience with Rapleys in the summer of 2018 and 2019, along with a brief spell of work experience at Turley’s Leeds office.

As a Planner, he will primarily assists in the preparation of planning documents for residential and retail developments.

George graduated with a Masters of Planning (MPlan) Class Two Division One Honours from the University of Sheffield in July 2020. He is currently working towards gaining his RTPI full accreditation.

Places for Everyone, the Joint Development Plan for Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The Plan seeks to guide the development of around 165,000 new homes and over 50m sq.ft of commercial space across the nine Greater Manchester boroughs.

Following its submission, the Plan will now be subject to an independent examination conducted by the Planning Inspectorate. The authorities hope to have the Plan adopted in 2023.

The submission of the Plan to the Government is an important and positive step towards the Plan’s formal adoption. It follows numerous delays since the Joint Development Plan’s first consultation draft was published in 2016.

The adoption of the Plan is absolutely vital, as it will ensure Greater Manchester’s future growth through both the allocation of sites and by providing a platform for each of the individual Local Authorities to bring forward their own Local Plans in due course.

Rapleys is currently advising clients in all development sectors across Greater Manchester and in the wider North West Region.

If you have any questions relating to the Places for Everyone Joint Development Plan or require assistance in unlocking a potential development opportunity, please get in touch with Jonathan Harper, Town Planning Partner or Richard Huteson, Town Planning Partner based in our Machester office.

Edward joined Rapleys in February 2020. He is a Senior Planner with experience in project managing developments; in particular retail, hotel and mixed-use schemes. Edward principally provides planning consultancy advice for the retail and commercial sector and works across multi-disciplinary teams of consultants through the preparation, submission and negotiation of planning applications.

Edward’s role also involves undertaking planning appraisals, providing sequential (retail and leisure) and retail impact analysis, and providing strategic advice in bringing forward new development opportunities. Edward is currently working to deliver Lidl’s expansion programme across the UK, by providing effective strategic advice during site acquisition and development planning stages.

Richard joined Rapleys as a Partner in 2020 to build a planning team in Cambridge. He works for both private clients and local authorities, securing planning permission for key growth and infrastructure projects. Richard’s projects are usually of a residential, care, office or industrial nature.

Richard undertakes a broad range of planning application and appeal work but has a particular focus on public inquiries, Examinations in Public (EiPs), environmental impact assessment, green belt cases and sustainable urban extensions. He also has extensive experience of planning enforcement matters and regularising unlawful development.

Richard is known for his inquiring and methodical approach. He is often involved from the earliest stages of a project in which he establishes the key project drivers and objectives and investigates and advises on the chosen site’s planning potential. Where potential is identified Richard devises the best strategy for realising it and ensures the effective implementation of that strategy.

Property and planning consultancy Rapleys has witnessed a healthy growth to its West Midlands team and, since opening in 2016, its Birmingham office has expanded by 60%.

Rapleys Building Consultancy, Land Development Project Management and Town Planning teams have all made key hires over the last year despite economic uncertainty. Stuart Adkins, Senior Surveyor, joined the Building Consultancy team, whilst Gurpreet Narle, Senior Project Manager, joined the Land Development Project Management and Zarina Ali, Planner, joined the Town Planning team.

Following the appointment of Richard Crow, Partner and most recently Stuart Adkins, Senior Surveyor, who joined the Birmingham team in November, Rapleys Building Consultancy team have cemented a strong regional presence across the West Midlands.

“Rapleys is a well-established property consultancy who’s Building Consultancy team are rapidly growing. It was the forward-thinking and blue-chip quality client base that sold the business to me and Stuart – an opportunity to be part of this evolution.”  Explains Crow. 

Both Crow and Adkins have extensive commercial experience for private and public sector clients including institutional investors, landlords, occupiers and Housing Associations. Their due diligence, defect analysis, project management, Landlord and Tenant Dilapidations advice, and expert witness experience supplements the well-established, nationwide team.

Rapleys Land Development Project Management (LDPM) team has seen equal success within the Birmingham region. Senior Project Manager Gurpreet Narle joins Jason Mound, Head of LDPM and Jack Downing, Associate. Narle brings a wealth of development civil engineering experience to support growth in design led Project Management.

The recent appointment of Zarina Ali, Planner along with Partner Sarah Smith moving from the Bristol Office to head up the Birmingham office’s Town Planning offering has increased Rapleys’ Planning presence in the city. Ali joins to assist Smith across a range of projects including large scale residential/commercial local plan promotions, submission of outline/full/reserved matters/discharge of condition applications, preparation/co-ordination of Environmental Impact Assessments and planning appraisals.

Rapleys advises on all building consultancy, land development project management and planning matters from its Birmingham office and would welcome the chance to talk to you about your project needs. Get in touch with Richard Crow, Jason Mound or Sarah Smith for an informative discussion.

Joshua joined the Town Planning department as a Senior Planner in December 2019. He joined with over three years’ experience at a residential land promoter as well as commercial consultancy experience.

Experience includes a variety of projects within the residential and retail sectors across a number of Local Authority areas in the UK.

Joshua is proficient in the preparation, coordination and submission of planning applications, appeals, monitoring planning policy and managing projects through the planning process.

Rapleys Cambridge Town Planning team gained approval from West Suffolk Council’s Development Control Committee last Wednesday for the introduction of a pioneering dementia care concept to the UK, at a site in Little Wratting, near Haverhill.

The Cambridge team submitted a detailed planning application in February 2021 and then monitored and managed it proactively to ensure that the case officer was able to recommend approval of the application despite the site’s countryside location. The team worked closely with statutory consultees, responding to their comments and addressing any concerns throughout the determination process.

Strawberry Care appointed Rapleys at the outset of the project. Early instruction meant that Rapleys were able to guide them through the sequential approach to searching for, assessing and identifying sites, and then to help them evidence the need for the scheme. This was critical to justifying the site at Little Wratting, which was identified as the most sequentially preferable, and, ultimately, to enabling the case officer to make a robust recommendation for approval of the scheme.

Strawberry Care Director, Phil Jordan commented: “I applaud Rapleys Town Planning team for the great work they have done in securing this resolution; highly professional and a pleasure to be involved in”.

Richard Sykes-Popham, head of Rapleys Cambridge Town Planning team, commented:

“We’re delighted Strawberry care can now start to plan the delivery of their first dementia village.

Their unique care model makes this result even more rewarding. It also completely justifies the committee’s decision, which required them to make an exception to the local plan.”

The scheme will be home to 120 residents who will live together in 20 shared apartments, each with 6 bedrooms. Together with the various community buildings and an internal arrangement of streets and squares, the development will create a small village where residents are both safe and free to roam; the aim being to enable them to live a normal life despite their diagnosis. The Little Wratting site is ideally suited to this use. The primarily self-contained scheme will be well screened by existing vegetation and will benefit from a quiet environment without the kinds of peak noise events that are known to cause distress for those living with severe dementia.

The village is expected to open in 2023 as a market leader in all senses, including through its use of lower-carbon construction and renewable energy generation measures.

Samantha joined the Manchester Town Planning team as a planner in October 2019. She has dealt with a range of projects across the UK that require the preparation of documents such as planning strategy notes, statement of case, planning statements and covering letters. She also negotiates with consultants and planning officers as well as submitting both planning and appeal applications.

She is able to offer honest and expert planning advice that is tailored to the client’s needs and aspirations by working directly with the client from the initial site appraisals through to achieving planning permission.

Samantha is well equipped with Urban Designing skills and very good with numbers, she is able to translate and communicate technical information easily. The skills also enable her to offer creative design proposals that can be integrated effectively with the surroundings.


As published in Property Week on 14 October


The Government’s introduction of the Class MA permitted development right – making it possible to convert most commercial buildings to residential use, is deemed to be a shortcut to addressing housing shortages instead of dealing with the bigger issues within the planning system.

Rapleys Town Planning Partner, Jason Lowes comments on the National Planning Policy Framework in relation to Article 4 directions. Lowes thinks that although local authorities have seen a level of success in the past in relation to the approval of these directions, the change in policy means the chances of approval are lower than before and that it remains to be seen what the government will permit.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Place North West on 04 October


Further to the planning application for 116 energy-efficient homes on Timperley site and a planning application for the Thorley Lane development, it is clear that Trafford Council need to improve their House Delivery Test record.

Rapleys Town Planning team commented “Trafford currently falls within the bottom 10% of authorities in England for housing delivery,” Rapleys added. “The proposed development will deliver a substantial contribution towards this significant identified market housing shortfall.” 

Read the article in full here.

As published in Planning Resources on the 28 September

As published in Insider Media on the 28 September

As published in The Planner on the 27 September

As published in The Business Desk on 30 September

As published in North West Place on 06 October


Planning consultancy Rapleys has hired a Town Planning Partner in its Manchester office.

Andrew Bradshaw joins the firm, leaving his previous role as head of planning at property consultancy GL Hearn, where he spent more than three years. In his new role, Bradshaw will lead on the residential sector in the north west.

Bradshaw has worked on the negotiation of planning permissions for government agency Homes England across the UK and the preparation of town centre masterplans in Newbury, Blackpool and Rochdale.


Daniel is an associate in Rapleys’ town planning team with over 17 years of experience of working in both the public and private sectors. Daniel is a problem solver, tackling often competing issues to ensure a positive outcome for clients.

Daniel’s specialist knowledge and experience is in the retail, leisure, residential, office, automotive and roadside sectors. He has a proven track record in managing a range of planning applications at all scales to achieve a successful conclusion. Daniel’s significant public sector experience means that he fully understands how local authorities function, including tenaciously working with key stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues

Daniel has worked on a number of key projects including:

  • Securing planning permission for Scotch Corner Designer Outlet Village comprising over 23,000 sq m retail and commercial leisure floorspace
  • Submission of various planning applications for Lidl foodstores across the UK, supporting Lidl’s rapid expansion
  • Submission of a planning application for large scale employment development comprising 80,000 sq m of B1, B2 and B8 floorspace near Telford, Shropshire


Whilst the Government refines its proposals for planning reform, which will need to be reconciled with increasing disquiet in the Conservative Party at large, it has released another version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is the fourth iteration of central Government planning policy since the first NPPF in 2012, but like the version it replaces (released in February 2019), the changes are relatively discrete and the fundamentals of national policy (such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and matters relating to the Green Belt) remain very much in place. 

The changes are broadly consistent with those proposed in a consultation carried out earlier in the year (see previous Rapleys newsletter), and the main areas can be summarised thus:

  •  A greater focus on design, and particularly “beauty” in development, in line with the Government’s “build beautiful” initiatives;
  • A general encouragement of trees, and more specifically seeking to ensure that all new streets are tree-lined;
  • A longer life for strategic policies is sought, where new settlements or significant extensions to existing settlements are proposed;
  • A strengthening of policy relative to Article 4 directions, to underline the Government’s discouragement of restrictions to permitted development rights (PDR);
  • An encouragement towards faster delivery of public service infrastructure;
  • A requirement that local planning authorities have regard to the importance of retaining historic statues, and explain their historic and social context in preference to their removal, and
  • The addition of an Annex 3, formalising land use vulnerability classification (in the context of flood risk) into policy.

In this regard, it would appear that the new NPPF is intended to represent somewhat of a “holding position”, including putting a little more meat on the bones of what the Government has been saying over the last 6 to 12 months, in advance of more wide-ranging initiatives later in the year. In this context, the Government has already indicated that a fuller review of the NPPF will be undertaken to promote the Government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

If you would like to discuss these changes, the Government’s wider planning reform agenda, and the implications they might have on your portfolio, please get in touch with one of our nationwide Town Planning team.

As published in UK Property Forum on the 11 May


Rapleys Town Planning team have secured revised planning permission for the final land parcel on the site of Cardington airship sheds on behalf of Gallagher Developments and Bellway Homes.

Over the years, permission has been secured for 130 dwellings on the west land parcel, 592 dwellings on the Eastern and South-Eastern land parcels, as well as listed building consent for the refurbishment of the Grade II* listed airship shed.

Read the article in full here.

As published in The Planner on the 11 May

As published in Planning on the 13 May

As published in Property Week  on the 27 May


The promised planning bill has received a mixed reception from built environmental professionals, with some concerned that communities won have a voice, whilst others welcome a ‘more efficient’ planning system.

In The Planner’s response to the Queen’s speech, Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys addresses the confusion over the guiding principles of the Government’s planning agenda. On the one hand, further flexibility is being added into the planning system through the expansion of permitted development, however, more interventionist powers have been introduced centrally on issues such as design.

Talking to Planning, Jason reacts to the implementation of the complex changes proposed.

Jason concurs the devil will be in the detail when talking to Property Week. The proposals potentially add another layer to an already complicated process.

The Government’s intention to bring forward a new Planning Bill, which aims to “modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built”, was confirmed Tuesday (11 May), as part of the Queen’s Speech in Parliament (and widely covered in the press beforehand). While very much echoing the proposals already introduced in the Planning for the Future White Paper (our summary of which can be found here), the announcement is clearly intended to signify real progress in the step change towards a reformed and simplified planning system.

At this stage, the main elements of the Bill are purported to:

  • Change local plans, so that they provide more certainty over the type, scale and design of development permitted on different categories of land (with the final details of a radical new zoning regime still yet to be announced);
  • Significantly decrease the time it takes for developments to go through the planning system;
  • Replace the existing systems for funding affordable housing and infrastructure from development with a new more predictable and more transparent levy;
  • Use post-Brexit freedoms to simplify and enhance the framework for environmental assessments for developments;
  • Reform the framework for locally led development corporations to ensure local areas have access to appropriate delivery vehicles to support growth and regeneration.

It’s clear that the opportunities and implications of this announcement will not be fully known until the proposed Bill is laid before parliament, which is expected – though not guaranteed – in the Autumn. Nonetheless, Rapleys will be keeping a close eye on any indications on what exactly the Bill will set out, and will be delighted to discuss the Government’s initiative with you should you have any queries.

For queries in relation to the Planning Bill and other matters relating to the planning system please get in touch with Jeevan Thandi or a member of Rapleys’ nationwide Town Planning team.

Following Rapleys’ 2019 initiative to expand its national presence by opening an office in Cambridge, its Town Planning service is helping to cement the firm’s progress in the eastern region. The Planning team in Cambridge, led by Richard Sykes-Popham, is going from strength to strength.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has witnessed a growing stream of opportunities and instructions which are behind its expansion plans and upward trend. As a result, the firm’s plans for its Cambridge Town Planning team have been unaffected by the pandemic.

Richard comments:
“I’m very pleased with the Cambridge Planning team’s progress over the last year, such that it now sits alongside our well-established Development Services, Building Consultancy and Automotive and Roadside teams in its strength and coverage across the region”.

The team, which forms part of a strong national presence across seven offices, has witnessed particular growth in industrial and commercial based instructions both within the city and the wider region. The Planning team has also maintained its strong foothold in the residential sector, which has remained extremely active from land promotion through to detailed planning, despite the challenges of the last twelve months. Other sectors such as elderly and dementia care have shown equal resilience and are forming a growing part of the team’s pipeline.

With most of the firm’s departments witnessing similar trends, Rapleys is positive about the next twelve months, forecasting a swift bounce back to pre-pandemic business levels and growth.

The formation and growth of the Cambridge Town Planning team compliments Rapleys’ property consultancy offering in the eastern region. The firm’s multidisciplinary capability and expertise mean that it is able to assist clients regardless of the breadth of their property interests. The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of all property related disciplines means that this is something which a growing range of landowners and developers are seeking.

Rapleys advises on all property matters from its Cambridge office and would welcome the chance to talk to you about your property needs.

The last year has been anything but normal. Is this the time for you to review your property interests; could they benefit from a second opinion and a fresh approach? Please speak to us about how Rapleys can make that all important difference to your current and forthcoming projects. We will review your interests and opportunities objectively and will always offer our initial views without obligation.

To set the conversation going, please contact our Head of Office, Stuart Harris on 07711 847846.


The Government introduced a new Use Class – Class E – last summer, which combined a broad range of land uses including retail, office and light industrial uses, as well as gyms, medical facilities and nurseries. However, as a transitional measure until 31 July 2021, the previous Use Class Order was kept in force relative to permitted development, whilst the Government considered what permitted development rights should be given to the new land use. Over the Winter, the Government consulted on proposals to include the change of use of Class E floorspace to residential as permitted development, and the Government has today confirmed that this new permitted development right will be introduced from 1 August 2021.

It is important to be aware that the new permitted development right will be conditional upon the building:

  • Having a floorspace of no more than 1,500 sqm;
  • Having been vacant for at least 3 months prior to the date of an application for prior approval;
  • Having been in Class E for two years before benefitting from the right;
  • Not being listed, nor being within the curtilage of a listed building; and
  • Not being within protected or designated areas (i.e. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, the Broads, World Heritage Sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Monuments), with the notable exception however of Conservation Areas, where the right will apply.

The new permitted development right will also be subject to a prior approval process, which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the proposed change to residential use is acceptable in terms of:

  • Transport impact and achieving safe access;
  • Flooding and contamination risks;
  • Impact of noise from commercial premises;
  • Provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms;
  • In areas considered important for B2 and B8 uses only, the impact on residential amenity;
  • In Conservation Areas only, the impact of the loss of the ground floor Class E use on the character and sustainability of the area; and
  • In relation to health centres and registered nurseries only, the impact of the loss of such local services.

Transitional arrangements for existing Article 4 Directions which restrict the conversion of offices to residential use (under Class O of the General Permitted Development Order) have also been outlined: those that remain in place on 31 July 2021 will continue to have effect on equivalent development (i.e. the conversion of offices under Class E(c) and E(g)(i) to residential use) until 31 July 2022.

In addition to the above new permitted development right, the Government has announced the amendment of existing rights to allow for:

  • The extension, erection or alteration of school, college, university, hospital, and for the first time prison buildings, by up to 25% of the existing footprint of the cumulative buildings on the site, or 250 square metres, whichever is greater; and
  • Ports and their agents to erect buildings in connection with the operation of the port, with the intention of aligning this right with that applying to airport development.

To discuss how these proposals can present new opportunities to add value to existing property portfolios in the run up to taking effect later this year, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team for advice.




Richard is a partner in Rapleys’ town planning team. He has extensive commercial and residential sector knowledge and experience, gained within a variety of both public, private and client side roles.

Richard has worked with a wide range of national clients, particularly in the convenience retail sector where he is currently managing the Lidl portfolio.  He has successfully obtained planning permission on appeal and embarked on a number of informal hearings resulting in a successful outcome. Richard’s extensive experience and interest in S106 negotiations, viability, CIL and planning policy give him a complete understanding of the best way to secure planning permission.

Richard has expertise in securing planning permission for major complex planning applications and high profile schemes. He specialises in guiding and developing tough planning strategies for schemes often requiring significant community and public engagement.

Richard is highly focused, fostering a good work ethic to motivate his team towards the successful execution of shared objectives and engaging with the local community to address planning issues.

Hot on the heels of a consultation on permitted development, which closed late last month, the Government has launched another consultation exercise. This time, it is the turn of the Government’s drive to increase the profile of design in planning decisions (although it touches on other matters). At the same time, it appears that the stand-off between the Government and the London Mayor over the emerging London Plan is coming to something like a conclusion.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The NPPF was last tweaked in February 2019, after a more comprehensive overhaul the previous year. The Government is now consulting on some fairly focussed tracked changes to the 2019 document, pending a more detailed review in the context of the Government’s proposals for wider reform (as trailed in last year’s White Paper). The headlines are:

  • Most of the changes, as expected, revolve around design. This includes confirmation that development that is “not well designed” should be refused planning permission (the current equivalent wording refers to planning permission being refused for “poor design”)
  • Changes are introduced which, it is assumed, are intended to discourage local authorities imposing Article 4 directions, which restrict or prevent permitted development (PD) in defined locations
  • As trailed in the national press over the last months, the Framework indicates that local authorities should have regard to the importance of retaining statues and plaques when proposals are put forward for their removal

National Model Design Code

The draft National Model Design Code follows on from, and sits alongside, the National Design Code published by the Government last autumn. It is intended to be a basis for the production of design codes and guides by local authorities, and also developers promoting large-scale proposals, and could be used to inform the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans and planning applications. The document splits the “coding process” into three parts, each informed by consultation:

  • Analysis – scoping and baseline research
  • Vision – analysis of the area, feeding to a masterplan
  • Coding – guidance and policies to apply to development

Although the Model Design Code is at pains to state that the codes and guides should be used flexibly, it is clear that – if the Design Code regime proceeds as the Government intends – a significant amount of additional resource, as well as a new skill set in most cases, will be required at local authorities. Further, it is likely to add an extra layer of information required to support major planning applications.

The London Plan

After almost a year of back and forth between the Mayor of London and the Government, the new London Plan (replacing the 2016 current version) has been approved by the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, for final publication.

However, in approving it, Jenrick has made clear that despite this green light, there remain (in his view) considerable shortcomings with the Plan in terms of meeting London’s housing need. As such, this is likely to be far from the end of the story, but at least it provides some clarity in terms of the planning policy position in the capital.


The current consultations are a further development in what appears to be the Government’s twin-track approach to planning, involving:

  • Reducing the scope of the planning system’s intervention in development by expanding the scope of PD (and specifically, in this consultation, by discouraging local authorities from restricting it), and at the same time
  • In circumstances where planning permission is required (at least until zoning aspects of the Government’s reforms are implemented), adding a new layer to planning policy and strategic decision making on a subject that, whilst important, is inherently subjective and time consuming.

As ever, time will tell how these two seemingly contradictory strategies will reconcile themselves. However, if you want to have your say on planning reform in the interim, or wish to discuss the opportunities to increase value of your portfolio through the reforms please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning or a member of our nationwide team.

Duncan has nearly 30 years planning and development experience, most recently in relation to mixed use, residential, leisure, education and Brownfield urban regeneration development.

He has successfully obtained planning permission by negotiations and on appeal for a wide variety of commercial clients. He regularly gives evidence as a professional witness and has successfully undertaken numerous informal hearings and written appeals.

He has considerable experience of managing project teams including instruction Counsel and advising clients on appointment of consultants such as those with highways, conservation/ecological and listed buildings expertise. Many of the large projects have included EIA.


Birmingham City Council has today (26 January) launched a consultation on the future vision for Birmingham City Centre – the ‘Our Future City Plan: Central Birmingham 2040’ (OFCP) represents a momentous refresh of the hugely influential Big City Plan from 2011 and outlines an ambition to establish Birmingham as a green, equitable, liveable and distinctive city by 2040.

The Plan is guided by six strategic ‘City Themes’ – focused on creating a city characterised by multiple centres, inclusive growth, easy access to nature, multilayered culture, and knowledge and innovation – all of which could bring potentially bold changes to the city’s built environment.

Fundamental to achieving its vision, the OFCP proposes to redefine the extent of the city centre by looking beyond the inner ring road – which has long been a barrier to the evolution of the city – and out towards inner-city suburbs such as Balsall Heath, Bordesley Green, Lozells and Edgbaston, as a means to promote and link growth opportunities and investment to these communities.

The vision of the Plan is more pertinent than ever in the context of the city’s declaration of a Climate Emergency in 2019, its status as the UK’s first ‘Biophilic City’, and also the economic and social challenges to urban environments that have been exposed more recently as a result of Covid-19.

In terms of locations to be aware of, the Plan sets out a commitment to unlocking new and unrealised development opportunities for mixed-use development across eight Central Renewal Areas. These are: Hockley and St Georges; the Knowledge Quarter and Nechells; Digbeth and Bordesley; Park Birmingham; Smithfield and Rea Valley; Highgate and Balsall Heath; Edgbaston Village; and Ladywood. In these areas, the City Council will be proactive in developing, enabling and encouraging innovative delivery partnerships across community, development and investment sectors to bring about change.

These renewal areas will also sit alongside established major development sites such as Paradise, Arena Central and Smithfield, the delivery of which was initiated by the publication of the first Big City Plan.

To review the Plan and learn more about its vision, visit Birmingham City Council’s consultation website. It is important to note that feedback to the OFCP consultation will go on to inform the next stage of work – a draft Central Birmingham 2040 Framework, to be launched for consultation in the summer – and therefore Rapleys’ Planning team in Birmingham would be happy to assist with any queries or consultation responses you wish to make in relation to this. Please contact Jeevan Thandi or Sarah Smith for more information.

The Government have published the latest Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results for 2020. With the national lockdown announced in March, the Government has adjusted this year’s results by reducing the homes requirement for 2019-2020 by a month.

We have compared the 2020 results with those in 2019 to identify how Councils have fared over the last year.

Even with the one month reduction, notably and probably not unexpectedly in the circumstances, there has been a large increase in those in the Presumption category at the expense of those in the Buffer group.

Of the eight Presumption Councils of 2019, only two have improved their delivery sufficiently to move out of that category – City of London, with the lowest figure in 2019 of 32% and New Forest at 43%. Of the remaining six, Eastbourne and North Hertfordshire have the dubious honour of achieving an even lower score in 2020 than in 2019:

No doubt these authorities in particular will be feeling the pressure to improve their position next year.

If you have any property in these Council areas and require some planning advice, please do get in touch with Sarah Smith, Planning Partner at Rapleys or another member of our nationwide team.

Marcin is an Associate in Rapleys’ Planning team with over three years experience in both the public and private sector. Since joining Rapleys in December 2015, Marcin has been involved in a wide variety of planning projects within retail, commercial and mixed used developments and has developed strong planning and project management skills.

He is responsible for the preparation of planning applications and appeals, monitoring planning policy documents, organising public consultation events, and undertaking feasibility and planning appraisals (particularly in the convenience retail sector).

Marcin manages planning projects from conception through to completion, and has also represented clients at planning committees.



Wakako is a senior associate in Rapleys’ town planning team and has advised on a wide range of planning projects involving commercial, leisure, retail, residential and mixed use commercial developments. Her experience includes project management and co-ordination of multi-disciplinary teams in a number of planning applications and appeals, as well as providing advice on the policy formulation process in protecting and promoting clients’ interests.

She has represented clients at appeal hearings and assisted the expert planning witness in giving evidence at a major Inquiry, as well as providing assistance in support of various large scale mixed use regeneration schemes. She has also negotiated with various agencies and stakeholders through a number of complex planning applications.

Wakako has also represented clients at Local Plan examination hearings.

Wakako joined Rapleys in 2006 as a graduate planner, and was promoted to senior associate in 2015.


As published in Forecourt Trader on the 22 December


Petrol filling stations face a distinct set of issues when it comes to planning, both when developing a new site or expanding or altering an existing one.

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner shares a guide with readers of Forecourt Trader on navigating the town planning system and creating value.

Read the article in full here.

As published in Forecourt Trader on the 25 November


Town planning is Jason Lowes’ forte but he has a sense of adventure, loving road trips in the US and is hankering after a trip to Brazil

Get to know Jason a little better by reading his under the spotlight: 20 questions.

Read the article in full here.

Sarah joined Rapleys as an Associate in 2011, being promoted to Partner in 2015. She works nationally with a wide range of clients dividing her time between the Bristol and Birmingham offices. Prior to joining Rapleys, Sarah had worked in consultancy in Swindon since the late 1990s and has more than twenty years experience as a professional planner.

Sarah has advised a range of private sector clients across a variety of sectors including Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon homes, Redrow, Bellcross Homes, Commercial Estates Group, Associated British Foods, Wrenbridge Estates, Gallagher Developments and the Jockey Club. High profile planning projects including:

  • 4,500 dwelling/mixed use urban extension to Swindon (Wichelstowe) for Taylor Wimpey
  • 5,000 sq m extension to a pharmaceutical factory in Swindon
  • Regeneration and redevelopment of former British Sugar refinery in York for 1,100 dwellings
  • Promotion of a 4,500 dwelling garden village at Colworth, Bedfordshire for Wrenbridge/Unilever
  • Regeneration and redevelopment of former factory site for B1/B8/5,600sq m Asda store at Worksop for CEG

Sarah has significant experience in managing and leading multi-disciplinary teams on a wide range of major (and minor) projects, with particular emphasis on largescale residential/mixed use/commercial (non-retail) schemes. Sarah’s specific area of knowledge is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) where she has over twenty years of experience of advising, managing and co-ordinating Environment Statements to accompany planning applications.




Following changes to permitted development (PD) rights and the White Paper Planning Reforms published at the end of the summer, the Government has recently launched a further consultation on new Permitted Development rights, allowing a change of use from the new Commercial, Business and Service use class E to residential use class C3. It’s fair to say that most in the industry were expecting this, but perhaps not quite so soon, and it’s clear that the proposed new rights will have far reaching consequences for our high streets, town centres and beyond.

The consultation, published on 3 December, proposes new PD rights to allow the change of use from Class E (which includes retail, office, light industrial, gyms, medical facilities and nurseries) to residential dwellings without the need to obtain planning permission.

The PD right will apply to all Class E buildings, including those within Conservation Areas. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, World Heritage Sites and Listed Buildings will be excluded from operation of the new right.

A prior approval application will be required, which should address a short list of criteria as follows:
•Flood risk;
•Noise impacts;
•Daylight / sunlight;
•Fire safety; and
•Residential amenity (in certain locations).

The prior approval application must include detailed floor plans and minimum space standards will be mandatory. To benefit from the new right, the building must have been in a use falling within use Class E on 1 September 2020. It appears that there will be no affordable housing or other planning obligation requirements, and no CIL liability where no new net floorspace is created.

The proposal forms part of the Government’s response to changing behaviours affecting the high street brought about by the rise of on-line retailing and the impact of COVID-19.

The rapidly changing face of our town centres demands radical action to re-imagine and re-vitalise what were once vibrant, busy commercial centres. The Government’s intention is clearly to allow change to occur swiftly with limited intervention in the process of change by Council planners.

For further advice on the reforms and to discuss the opportunities that the proposed PD rights introduce, please contact Neil Jones, Partner in the Town Planning team at Rapleys on 07774 652 426.

Robert is the Senior Partner of Rapleys and Head of the Town Planning department (which operates across the practices’ national network and comprises circa 40 professional and support staff).

He advises on a wide range of retail, automotive and roadside, strategic land, residential, mixed use, regeneration and green belt proposals across the UK, involving the preparation of land availability/supply, capacity, sequential test and impact assessments. Robert has also promoted office, light industrial, health and financial/professional service developments throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

He has extensive experience in policy formulation and widespread knowledge in managing and promoting planning applications. He has appeared at many public inquiries as an Expert Witness.

His experience encompasses planning instructions and multi-disciplinary cases where he advises in association with the practice’s retail agency, automotive and roadside, development, strategic land and other teams.

Robert’s clients include retailers, property companies, land owners, operators, developers, house builders and investors.


As published in Property Week on the 12 November


The Environment Bill, which was introduced to parliament last October, sets out measures for improving air quality, transforming waste management and protecting water resources. If it becomes law, it will have a big impact on developers, but the bill’s progress has encountered several delays, making it difficult to plan ahead. 

Sarah Smith, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys discusses the implications of the delays.

“The Environment Bill was drafted ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU. “Some 80% of the UK’s environmental legislation has been shaped by the EU over the last 30 years”

“As a response to Brexit, the Environment Bill is intended to set out a new environmental framework,” she says, adding that much of this is additional, as “many of the EU’s environmental protections have been transposed into UK law already”.

Read the article in full here.

As mentioned in a recent update the Government has introduced Regulations to amend the Use Classes Order and scope of Permitted Development. These provide opportunities to repurpose existing residential, commercial and retail assets without the need to obtain planning permission, providing greater flexibility in the face of uncertain and fluctuating market conditions.

Since the update was issued a claim for a Judicial Review has been submitted to the High Court on behalf of the campaign group Rights : Community : Action. The claim argues that the Regulations are unlawful and requests that they are quashed. A hearing is scheduled to take place on 14 and 15 October 2020.

The timing of the hearing is problematic as the Regulations came into force on 1 September 2020 and can be legitimately be utilised for their intended purposes (e.g. changing the use of a building, erecting an upward extension etc). However, should the claim be successful, and the Regulations quashed, it is possible that any changes of use or works undertaken since 1 September 2020 could be deemed unauthorised and require retrospective planning permission (which may or may not be granted). Therefore, until the claim is resolved, it is crucial that this risk is factored in when making decisions on whether to proceed with any changes of use or works which rely on the provisions of the new Regulations.

For advice on the new Regulations and the potential impacts of the Judicial Review please contact Tony Clements or Daniel Sharp.

Rapleys LLP has been following the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning system closely since the White paper and the proposed changes to the current system were published in early August. The principle of reforming the system is overdue and structural reform is necessary.

Our submissions to the first consultation can be found here; they are based on an analysis of every LPA in England and the implications of a more targeted standard methodology for determining housing figures.

We will be making further submissions to the White Paper consultation later this month.

If you would like to find out more, or if we can help please get in touch with Town Planning Partners Tony Clements, Duncan Parr, Sarah Smith, Richard Sykes-Popham or Neil Jones.

Following new legislation introduced by the Government, a number of key changes have been brought in that affect property use classes. Those properties previously grouped together as D1 or D2 use are amongst those more significantly affected. As with all changes, there will be wrinkles to be ironed out in understanding how certain buildings fit into the new categories. In combination with Rapleys planning Team, we will be able to help clients with this substantial modification.

New Planning Use classes

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Regulations 2020 amend the previous categories from those of 1987 and introduce significant changes to the system of ‘use classes’.

In force from 1 September 2020, subject to certain transitional provisions, the core changes introduce three new use classes for the classification of uses of property.

Class E (Commercial, business and service): including retail, restaurant, office, financial/professional services, indoor sports, medical and nursery uses along with “any other services which it is appropriate to provide in a commercial, business or service locality.”

Class F.1 (Learning and non-residential institutions): including non-residential educational uses, and use as a museum, art gallery, library, public hall, religious institution or law court.

Class F.2 (Local community): including use as a shop of no more than 280 sq m mostly selling essential goods, including food and at least 1km from another similar shop, and use as a community hall, area for outdoor sport, swimming pool or skating rink.

To view the most recent Use Class Order as of Summer 2020, please click here.

Of particular interest to Charities and Not For Profit organisations is the deletion of the previous Classes D1 and D2, non-residential institutions and assembly and leisure uses respectively; they are both removed as shown in the table, and combined into new use classes that now have a much wider range of property types within each class than before.

A change of use within the same use class does not constitute development and therefore does not require planning permission, so more mixed-use and/or faster and more flexible changes of use should be possible in the future.

If you would like to discuss the three additional use classes, which may have an impact on managing your property requirements within the Charities and Not For Profit sector, please contact our specialist Partners, Graham Smith or Adam Harvey.

Alternatively, Rapleys Town Planning team can be contacted in conjunction with changes to the planning system.

As published in Property Week on the 6 August.


The government has released its long-awaited planning white paper, Planning for the Future. Its proposed reforms, including the replacement of Section 106 payments and fast-tracking “beautiful” buildings has been met with a mixed response from the property industry. 

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys shares his views on this radical reform.

“Announcements will not change the planning system overnight,” says Rapleys planning team partner

“The proposals are certainly radical, but with planning reform the devil is always in the detail,” said Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys.

“Experience shows it is likely to be some time before one can really judge how much of a game-changer the government’s initiatives will be, particularly as this is a consultation and we don’t know at this stage which measures will be implemented as currently proposed, and just as importantly which won’t.”

“It is likely to be some time before one can really judge how much of a game-changer the government’s initiatives will be.”

“The Government has hailed these proposed changes to the planning system as a means of getting Britain’s construction industry firing on all cylinders and generally encouraging economic recovery following Covid-19. What is clear at this stage however is that these announcements will not change the planning system overnight, as the consultation alone runs to nearly the end of October, and implementation of any measures is only likely to start early in the new year, at the earliest.”

Read the article in full here.

Jonathan is a Partner in Rapleys Town Planning team and has a wide range of experience across a number of property sectors including residential, retail, commercial, and automotive & roadside development.

The work he has undertaken includes the project management of major planning applications, planning appraisals to assess the development potential of sites, the identification and promotion of strategic land sites, and planning appeals.

He has experience advising a wide range of clients including national retailers, housebuilders, asset managers, private developers and corporate clients.

Jonathan joined Rapleys in 2012.  He previously worked for the north west based planning consultancy NJL Consulting LLP.


The long-promised Planning White Paper, heavily trailed in the media last weekend, has been released for consultation by the Government. The document promises “radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War” and “a significantly simpler, faster and more predictable system”. This is promoted in 24 proposals, upon which views are sought up to 29 October. The proposals are wide-ranging, and have the potential to affect almost all of the major aspects of the planning system – some of the more eye-catching proposals are summarised below:

  • Simplifying the Local Plan system to identify three types of land – “Growth” areas that are “suitable for substantial development”, “Renewal” areas “suitable for development”, and areas that are “Protected”.
  • Growth areas “would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development, while automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types in other areas suitable for building”.
  • Development management policies established at national level, with a suggestion that local development management policies be restricted to “clear and necessary” site or area-specific requirements.
  • Replacing the existing tests of soundness (including removal of the Duty to Co-operate with neighbouring authorities) with a single statutory “sustainable development” test.
  • Establishing a fixed 30-month period to develop Local Plans, streamlining the “disproportionate burden of evidence” that supports them.
  • Changes to how local housing need is assessed, seeking to address housing affordability and having regard to local constraints. A new standard method would be a means of distributing the national target of 300,000 new homes annually, and one million homes by the end of the Parliamentary term.
  • Housing Delivery Test and Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development to be retained.
  • Faster and more certain decision-making, with “firm” deadlines. Legislation will be brought in requiring local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to meet statutory timescales, with the possibility of sanctions if they fail to do so.
  • Neighbourhood Plans to be retained, with greater emphasis on incorporating digital tools and data in their preparation.
  • Local design guidance and codes to become binding on development. In addition, a “fast track for beauty”, reflecting the propositions of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission is mooted.
  • The current system of planning obligations is to be abolished and the Community Infrastructure Levy reformed to an “Infrastructure Levy”, with a mandatory nationally-set rate “to be charged as a fixed proportion of the development value above a threshold”. The Infrastructure Levy regime might be extended to include changes of use implemented through permitted development.
  • A radical overhaul of how people engage in the planning process, establishing a “digital-first approach” to engagement with local communities.
  • An overarching commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050.

In parallel, the Government has also released a more technical consultation paper for comment until 1 October. This seeks views on a range of matters, including:

  • The Government’s proposals to change how local housing need is assessed (as flagged in the White Paper).
  • How the “First Homes” home ownership scheme will be delivered through the planning process.
  • Extending “Permission in Principle” to major development.
  • Measures to assist small and medium size housebuilders, and new entrants to the housing market.

The Government is clearly heralding these changes as a root and branch reform of the planning system, and taken at face value it is fair to say that they would be. However, given that the Government is at consultation stage, it must be assumed that implementation of the proposals will not start in the coming months, some proposals may be subject to change, and some may not be implemented at all. Further, with planning reform the devil is always in the detail, and experience indicates it can take many years before the impact of any changes can be properly assessed.

With that in mind, we will be studying the detail of the consultation closely in the coming days, and will provide a more detailed analysis, going beyond the headlines, shortly. However, if you have any questions about the Government’s consultation, or would like Rapleys to help get your organisation’s voice heard, please contact one of our national team.

As published in Property Week on the 23 July


On 1 August, a new permitted development right (PDR) comes into force, which will allow additional storeys to be built on top of buildings without the need for planning consent.

The new PDR, which applies to detached residential blocks built between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018, was announced by housing secretary Robert Jenrick in early March. At the time, The Guardian wrote that it was “expected to transform the skyline of residential areas”, but less than a month away from its introduction, legal experts and airspace developers have conflicting views on how effective the new legislation will be.

Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner shares his view on PDR.

“The line between getting planning permission and prior approval for permitted development may start to get blurred,” says Jason Lowes, a partner at Rapleys, adding that we are not quite at that point yet.

Read the article in full here.

Jason is a partner in Rapleys’ town planning team. Since joining Rapleys, Jason has submitted and negotiated a wide range of planning applications, including retail, motor trade, residential and public transport infrastructure. To support such proposals, Jason has prepared retail, design and general planning statements.

Jason has undertaken numerous site analyses and appraisals, and provided planning advice in relation to site disposal. He has also been actively involved in public consultation exercises promoting development, particularly public exhibitions.

Jason has given planning evidence at public enquiry, has provided expert planning witness advice and has promoted development at examinations in public.

Jason was educated at Stowe School and University College London. Since graduation in 2000, Jason spent three years gaining experience within the construction/refurbishment industry. Subsequently Jason worked for two years in contract work as a development control officer for a number of local authorities in the north-west London area, dealing with a wide range of planning applications from minor to major, and contributing to the London Borough of Ealing petition in respect of the Crossrail Bill.

As trailed a few weeks ago, the Government laid further changes to the planning system before parliament on Tuesday, bringing significant changes to the current Use Classes Order, coming into effect on 1 September 2020, and the Permitted Development regime, coming into effect on 31 August 2020, representing a major overhaul of key parts of the town planning regime.

• A new ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ Use Class: (Class E) will subsume and replace Use Classes A1 (Shops) (albeit with a notable exception – see below), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Restaurants and Cafes) and B1 (Offices, Research & Development and Light Industrial), as well as certain D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) uses such as health/medical centres, gyms and nurseries which will not fall within the new Class F. Under normal circumstances, this will permit premises to switch between these uses without the need for prior approval or planning permission. However, shops smaller than 280sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food, and at least “1km from another similar shop” will fall within a new Class F.2 (see below);

• Class D to be replaced by a new Class F: the current Use Classes D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) will be revoked, and replaced with the following:
*Class F1 (Learning and Non-Residential Institutions) which will include educational premises, museums, galleries, libraries, public/exhibition halls, places of worship and law courts.
*Class F2 (Local Community) which will include some small shops (as detailed above), community halls and meeting places, outdoor sports and recreational facilities, swimming pools and skating rinks.

• Other Use Class Order changes: consequentially, a number of different land uses which currently fall into Use Classes will become sui generis, and therefore planning permission will be required to change to and from them, including: pubs and bars, hot food takeaways, music venues, bingo halls and dance halls.

• Permitted Development for the Demolition of Vacant Buildings to Residential Development: specifically, the demolition of a single detached purpose block of flats, or building used for office, research and development or industrial purposes, and its replacement by a single detached block of flats or detached dwelling within the footprint of the old building. The building to be demolished must have been vacant for a period of at least 6 months, have a footprint no larger than 1,000 sqm and be no taller than 18 metres. There is, also, a more wide-ranging prior approval process which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the new development is acceptable, before the work can commence. In this regard, the Local Planning Authority will consider, amongst other things: the design and appearance of the new building, possible transport and highway impacts, residential amenity impacts including the right to light, and the impact on heritage and archaeology.

• Two-storey Upward Extensions: the upward extension of existing dwellings and blocks of flats by up to two storeys. The rights will only apply to dwellings constructed between 1 July 1948 and 28 October 2018, and to buildings for flats, between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018. The new rights are also subject to a number of other limitations and conditions, including the requirement for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority in relation to matters such as the design and appearance of the new extension, possible transport and highway impacts, and residential amenity impacts including the Rights to Light.

Guidance providing further details about how the changes will work in practice is still to be published, but they are likely to have wide-ranging consequences. From a landowner and developer perspective, they are very likely to present a range of opportunities to repurpose existing residential, commercial and retail assets in order to respond and adapt to fluctuating market conditions. If you have any questions following these announcements, particularly in relation to the exceptions, limitations and conditions to such measures, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team.

As published in Property Week on the 16 July


The government shut down many industries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but not the construction industry.

Virtual future: online meetings have stopped the planning process from grinding to a halt during lockdown, as an increase of VPCs (Virtual Planning Committees) take place.

Duncan Parr, Town Planning Partner comments “Put simply, without the ability to progress applications virtually, the planning system in large parts of the country would grind to a halt, particularly affecting large and important schemes and having a detrimental impact on the long-term development pipeline,”

Read the article in full here.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced measures that are promoted as “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War, making it easier to build better homes where people want to live”.

Much of the announcement anticipates further reform of the permitted development regime, to allow the following without the need for planning permission:
• The change of use of retail floorspace to other town centre uses;
• The expansion of the types of commercial premises that can be converted to residential;
• The redevelopment of “vacant and redundant” sites, provided they are developed for housing, and
• Upward extensions—coming hot on the heels of last week’s proposed changes to the permitted development regime (which included the ability, under certain circumstances, to build new homes on top of existing blocks of flats).

Although many developers and landowners would support the above initiatives, those watching closely will recall that very similar measures were subject to consultation, by the Government, over a year and a half ago.

Also announced was the commitment to a cross-government strategy to improve the use of public land, alongside reiteration of spending commitments.

We can expect further detail relative to the above in next month’s planning policy paper, which it is said will introduce “comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade old planning system, to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society”. Following this will be a “Local Recovery White Paper”, which will, amongst other matters, introduce wider deregulation. Therefore, there will evidently be a few more hurdles to come before all of the reforms come into force.

As ever, Rapleys will continue to keep a close eye on the Government’s planning reform initiatives, and continue to issue regular updates once announcements are made. In the interim, if you have any questions following the Government announcements, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys or any other member of our nationwide team.

Planning updates are coming thick and fast this Summer. Following the Government’s announcements on Monday, the associated Business and Planning Bill has received its first reading in Parliament. This includes the further legislation required to enact the following interventions to support the development industry:

  • ‘Automatic’ extensions to time-limits for implementation of planning permissions, where these would have expired during the lockdown period;
  • ‘Fast-tracking’ requests for changes to construction working hours; and
  • Greater flexibility for planning appeal proceedings.

The Bill also includes a series of changes to licensing laws to ease rules for consuming food and drink outdoors.

The ‘automatic’ extensions will come into force 28 days after the Act is passed, the construction site working hours proposal will come into force six days after the Act is passed, while the appeal procedure flexibility would be implemented as soon as the legislation is passed.

Most notably, the detail on the ‘automatic’ extensions confirms the following:

  • Planning permissions with expiry dates ranging from 28 days after the date on which the Bill is enacted to 30 December 2020 will benefit from an automatic time limit extension up to, but not beyond, 1 April 2021.
  • Planning permissions that have already expired during the lockdown period (i.e. between 23 March and any day up to 28 days after the Bill is enacted) will be required to secure ‘additional environmental approval’ from the relevant local authority, who will have 28 days to respond to any request for such approval, with deemed approval being the default position if no response is received in that timescale. The additional approval process, in short, requires that the LPA is satisfied that environmental impact assessment and/or habitats assessment information is up to date.
  • The extension provisions will also apply in a similar manner to outline permissions, where there are deadlines for submission of reserved matters or the commencement of works, which have expired, or are due to expire, in the above period (23 March – 31 December 2020).
  • Listed building consents with ‘expiry’ dates from 23 March, up until 31 December 2020, will benefit from automatic renewal until 1 April 2021.

The Bill is due to be ‘fast-tracked’ through all stages of Parliamentary approval in the coming days. It will be advisable to document any extension in writing, with the relevant authority, to avoid any future uncertainty.

In other Planning news, changes to Permitted Development (PD) rights have also been announced, which come into force from 1 August. These will allow existing blocks of flats to be extended upwards by two storeys to create new homes without the need for planning permission. The new right is restricted to buildings of three storeys or more and the extended building must not be more than 30 metres in height. The right only applies to buildings built after 1 July 1948 and before 5 March 2018. Prior approval will be required, which will consider transport and highways impacts; air traffic and defence asset impacts; contamination and flooding risks. In addition, Councils can consider external appearance; daylight; impact on neighbouring amenity and protected views.

Further reforms of the planning system are expected over the Summer, including a new PD right to allow the demolition of existing commercial premises and replacement with new build homes. This is seen as a response to the rapidly changing nature of demand for office and retail space, in particular in town and city centres, as a result of Covid-19.

We will provide regular updates on what is currently a fast changing planning system. In the meantime please get in touch with Neil Jones or any member of our national planning team for further advice.




The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) yesterday announced further measures intended to assist the development industry and boost the economy, including:

  • ‘Automatic’ extensions to time-limits for implementation of planning permissions, where these would have expired during the lockdown period;
  • ‘Fast-tracking’ requests for changes to construction working hours; and
  • Greater flexibility for planning appeal proceedings.

MHCLG stated that the new measures will be introduced this week, albeit they will require secondary legislation to be passed before coming into effect.

‘Automatic’ time-limit extensions

Following strong lobbying from within the industry, the Government has followed some of the devolved nations in confirming that planning permissions which have expired, or are due to expire, during the lockdown period will benefit from an automatic time-limit extension. This means that planning permissions (and listed building consents) which expired from 23 March, or will expire before 31 December this year, will remain valid until 1 April 2021.

Fast-track for changes to construction hours

The Government will temporarily introduce a new fast track route to apply for changes to planning restrictions on construction hours, to allow longer hours to support safe construction working. Local Authorities will have 14 days to determine applications, after which time they would be deemed to be approved. This measure is intended to be in force until 1 April 2021, but will not apply to construction work on individual houses.

Greater flexibility for Planning Appeal procedures

Currently, regulations only permit the pursuit of planning appeals, in any given case, under one procedure (written representations, hearing or inquiry). The proposed changes, which would be permanent, will allow more than one procedure to take place at a time, with the intention of speeding up the decision making process for inquiries and hearings.

In principle, these measures are welcomed as interventions that seek to support the development industry in uncertain and challenging times. There is little detail in yesterday’s announcement, and as ever this will be key to the effectiveness of the measures.

We will provide updated commentary when this detail is known, but meanwhile, should you require any further advice at this stage, please contact Neil Jones or any member of the Planning team.

Negotiating the planning system can be tricky for any developer or housebuilder, but the challenges for promoters of strategic land are in a different league. Promoters can be seen as working against the planning system rather than with it by seeking to gain permission for sites not allocated in a local planning authority’s (LPA’s) local plan. The potential for conflict is obvious. – Property Week.

Jason Lowes, [Town Planning] partner at consultancy Rapleys, adds that getting an LPA on board is only half the battle.

The second prong is bringing the local population along as well,” he says. “It’s all very well ticking boxes with the local authority and planning officers, but if you don’t bring the community with you, then you will struggle.

“Sites can be controversial and the benefits of development can get lost. The perceived costs of development can become the only thing that people want to discuss.”

The full article from Property Week can be found here.

As the government takes the first tentative steps to bring us all out of lockdown, measures to make it easier for the housing market and planning system to operate have been included in a raft of announcements made over the last 48 hours. These measures, when followed safely, can only be welcomed by everyone in the industry. They will further mitigate the impact of current events on the housing market and planning system, over and above the extensive efforts already being made at a national and local level to, as far as possible, keep local plans and planning applications moving.

Restarting the Housing Market

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a series of measures to allow buyers and renters to complete purchases and view properties in person, while estate agents, conveyancers and removals firms can return to work while following social distancing guidelines. In addition, and as well as reiterating planning related guidance released shortly before the speech (see below), measures were announced to allow builders to agree more flexible site working hours with the local authority to assist social distancing, not least to ease pressure on public transport.

New Central Government Guidance

The government has released further guidance about how the planning system should continue to adapt to the ongoing situation, this includes:

  • CIL: Amendments to the current CIL regulations will be introduced to help address cashflow issues for small and medium-sized developers with an annual turnover of less than £45 million. The amendments will enable charging authorities to defer payments, to temporarily disapply late payment interest and provide a discretion to return interest already charged.
  • Publicity and Consultation for Planning Applications: New regulations come into force today (Thursday 14 May) which supplement the existing statutory publicity arrangements for planning applications, listed building consent applications and environmental statements. The regulations extend the minimum time period given to residents to make representations and remove the requirement for physical hard copies of certain documents (e.g. environmental statements) to be available for inspection.
  • Local Plans: MHCLG are looking at temporarily relaxing requirements on community engagement and the need for physical documents. They are also engaging with the Planning Inspectorate on the use of virtual hearings and written submissions.

Significantly, the guidance includes confirmation that there will be no amendments to application time limits, with the rights of applicants to appeal against non-determination remaining unchanged.

Other news

The Planning Inspectorate has updated its guidance in relation to Covid-19, confirming that:

  • Inspector site visits will now resume, breaking a significant logjam in the process.
  • The first digital appeal hearing was deemed a success, and the Inspectorate is planning 20 examinations, hearings and inquiries in May and June. A major step towards Robert Jenrick’s request that the Inspectorate “make all hearings virtual within weeks”.
  • A variety of methods need to be used when prosecuting these virtual events, reflecting the fact that the public have differing levels of access to digital technology.

As we have confirmed in previous newsletters, many in the planning industry have been struck by the great efforts that have been taken to keep the planning system moving through what are unprecedented events. It is hoped these further measures will build on that, and it is very likely that some of the reforms that are being brought in now will stick long after the current situation has passed.

If you would like to discuss the above further, please get in touch with Dan Sharp or a member of Rapleys nationwide team.

As published in Planning Resource on 30 April 2020.

The secretary of state last week allowed two appeals totalling more than 800 homes on green belt sites. Commentators suggest that the decisions indicate the weight that ministers place on schemes’ potential contribution to meeting housing need when considering whether they demonstrate the “very special circumstances” required for green belt permission.

Generations of young planners have passed through the doors of Oxford Brookes University’s Wheatley campus. It is fitting therefore that the site, located 3.5km outside of Oxford, should have been the site of a potentially significant planning decision.

In the second of two important decisions on green belt sites, both issued last week, housing secretary of state Robert Jenrick granted the university permission to redevelop the campus and turn it into 500 homes. Just a couple of days earlier, Jenrick had approved plans for 325 homes and a special needs school in the Greater Manchester green belt in Stockport.

However in both appeals, the most important factor was meeting housing need. Claire Dutch, partner and co-head of planning and environment at law firm Ashurst, said the Stockport decision “swung” on the issue of housing need. Similarly, housing was the key factor in the Oxford Brookes decision, said Jason Lowes, town planning partner at Rapleys. “Even though there was a five-year supply, the fact that there was such a shortage of affordable housing was given strong weight.” While meeting housing need in itself is not usually deemed very special circumstances by councils, said Lowes, it formed a large part of the secretary of state’s thinking in both of these decisions.

Lowes believed that while housing need was probably given sufficient weight in the Oxford Brookes decision to justify consent, other factors were deemed to be important too, such as the benefit of getting rid of the campus’s tower that looms over the surrounding countryside. Burden agreed, adding: “It’s not saying that residential sites in the green belt are up for grabs – you have to look at the special circumstances of the site and the planning constraints.

To read the article in full please click here.

In a move to further the significant Town Planning successes Rapleys has already been delivering in the region, the firm is delighted to welcome to the partnership, from April, its new lead of Town Planning in Cambridge, Richard Sykes-Popham.

Richard, previously of Carter Jonas and Januarys, brings with him a wealth of experience in Cambridge and across the eastern region and enjoys an excellent reputation as a trusted and focused planning advisor.

He joins, the business, as a Partner.

Richard’s background has given him exposure to a broad range of work and to business and team management. In addition to the promotion of planning applications and appeals, Richard has a particular focus on public inquiries, Examinations in Public (EiPs), environmental impact assessment, green belt cases and sustainable urban extensions.

He is able to bring his expertise, to the table, on town planning and wider multidisciplinary instructions: the latter in association with our other service lines in the Cambridge office, including development consultancy.

On his move to Rapleys Richard commented: “I am delighted to be at Rapleys. In the process of joining I have been able to get a good measure of their ethos and values, which have the firm’s clients and its people at their centre. The culture of the practice coupled with its excellent fundamentals make it an extremely exciting business to be part of. My focus will be on getting our planning services to clients and to ensure that we add value in the pursuit of future instructions and commissions.”

Rapleys’ Senior Partner, Robert Clarke, adds “I am delighted to welcome Richard to the partnership. He is a significant appointment in the growth of the Cambridge office. He brings a wealth of local, and national, experience to the business: to the benefit of our client base. I have no doubt that, under his leadership, the town planning team, in Cambridge, will become an important player in the city, its hinterland and wider region”.

In common with all aspects of day-to-day life, the property world has been hugely affected by current events. However, in terms of the planning system there is a huge push by government at national and local level to “keep calm and carry on” as much as is possible. Therefore, if they are in position to, there are several things that companies with property portfolios can do to protect themselves in the immediate term, and prepare for the future, once the storm has passed. 

1. Keep monitoring local plans and applications of interest
Although there are well publicised delays to local plan examinations and planning committees, most local authorities are still doing what they can towards the preparation of local plans and processing planning applications, so it is still vitally important to keep a close eye on local plan consultations, and the progress of planning applications, that are relevant to you.

2. Take stock of what you have
Even if you are not able to actively promote development at the moment, the current situation provides an opportunity to step back and review portfolio strategy.

3. Don’t lose your planning permissions
There are rumours that the Government will announce measures to extend the life of planning permissions. However, until then make sure you are discharging any relevant conditions and planning obligations, in the interests of commencing development at the earliest possible stage.

4. Instruct ecological surveys
Such surveys are time critical, as they can only be taken at certain times of the year, and for many species we are coming into season. Despite the lockdown, a number of ecological consultants are still able to carry out surveys. To avoid missing the window, make sure these are undertaken so you don’t have to wait another year.

5. Keep your eye on the ball
Measures to encourage development and keep the planning system going are being announced on a very regular basis. Make sure that you are up-to-speed with all the changes as they happen.

As the situation is constantly changing, so are the regulations and responses that are being put in place to support the system. For example, and as reported in our previous newsletter, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has received royal assent last week to enable planning committees to ‘meet’ without being together in the same place – regulations providing further detail of this were published this week, and will be reported in full in our next newsletter. Also, some local authorities are seeking to reduce the need for committees in the first place, by expanding powers of delegation.

Rapleys will continue to closely monitor the situation and will keep you updated. If you have any questions or wish to discuss this or any other queries you might have arising as a result of the current circumstances, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys.

As published in Property Week on 7 April 2020.


As part of the UK government’s response to Covid-19, Boris Johnson announced the closure of all pubs, restaurants, cafes and leisure facilities, with the closure of retail units following shortly afterwards.

The exception to the rule is a relatively small number of essential services such as supermarkets and other food shops, pharmacies, post offices and petrol stations.

To assist in supporting businesses through the coronavirus outbreak, the government has temporarily relaxed planning legislation to allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to speedily implement a change of use and operate temporarily as food takeaways.

Hot food takeaways operate in a different land use to pubs, restaurants and cafes, and would ordinarily require the submission of a planning application to the local authority. An over-concentration of hot food takeaways is commonly resisted by many local authorities owing to their perceived impacts on residential amenity, including noise, odours and loitering, as well as more general concerns relating to public health. However, in light of lockdown restrictions, limited food supplies and the closure of many businesses, the need for takeaways and food deliveries is more essential than ever and they are in incredibly high demand.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order is a statutory instrument permitting certain types of development without the need for planning permission, including both physical development and changes of land use. To enable pubs (use class A4), restaurants and cafes (use class A3) to operate for the provision of takeaway food, amendments to the order were laid before parliament on 23rd March 2020 and came into force the following day.

The provision of takeaway food is interpreted as: “any use for any purpose within class A5 of the schedule to the use classes order, and any use for the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises.”

The change of use can be brought into force any time between 24 March 2020 and 23 March 2021 and is subject to the following conditions:

  • The developer must notify the local planning authority that the land is being used for the provision of takeaway food during the period;
  • The use of the land for the provision of takeaway food does not affect the use class for the purposes of the use class order – in other words, the original land use is retained even during use of the permitted development right;
  • The use of the building and its land will revert to its previous lawful use at the end of the relevant period, or earlier if the temporary use ceases before 23 March 2021.

Those wishing to benefit from the amended legislation must therefore notify the local planning authority to ensure the temporary use is lawful, and must be aware that any physical changes associated with the temporary use are likely to still require planning permission (for example, the installation of an external flue).

Jason Lowes is a partner and Olivia St-Amour an associate at planning and property consultancy Rapleys.


In March, housing secretary Robert Jenrick outlined a number of measures to reform the English planning system. Announcing his plan the day after the Budget (11 March), he said the proposals would create a more efficient planning system, enabling more houses to be built in the places where people want them. Jenrick promised that the white paper would be “ambitious” enough to create a “planning system truly fit for the 21st century”.

Planning for the Future included: fully digitising the planning system; setting a deadline of December 2023 for completion of all local plans in England before government intervention; and extending permitted development rights. Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys spoke to The Planner and give his view on this ambitious measurement.

The need for speed

Many people involved in the planning process will have experience of “multi-dimensional delays” due to the planning system’s complexity and the lack of resourcing at a local level, said Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys.

“One of the government’s main priorities should be to speed up the planning system and create more certainty in the development management process, and aid better decision-making. The Planning for the Future paper indicates that the planning white paper will contain a number initiatives aimed at streamlining the system – for example, zoning tools – which, if done properly and effectively, have the potential to have a long-lasting impact to help meet housing need.”

Connected to this is the need to speed up the system to meet the demand for housing and, said Lowes, developers “will no doubt welcome” further extensions to permitted development rights. In doing this, the government needs to ensure that permitted development rights help to increase housing supply, he urged, “whilst also being mindful that the focus on streamlining the delivery of housing should not be at the expense of the quality of accommodation or design”.

“The government appears to be going in the right direction to continue to utilise permitted development rights as a means to drive forward housing, whilst also confirming that changes will have regard to design, and meeting light standards, all of which should be welcomed and it will be interesting to see the detail on this.”

Read The Planner article in full, which includes other professionals opinions on the White Paper.

In common with everything else in these unusual days, the restrictions imposed on movement as a result of the coronavirus outbreak have had a huge impact on the planning system, resulting in well-publicised delays to local plan examinations and public inquiries. However, it is a credit to decision-makers at both a national and local level that great efforts are being put into reducing the disruption as far as possible.

To date, these efforts and changes have included the following:

The Coronavirus Act

Passed in Parliament last week, in addition to giving the Government considerable powers, this emergency legislation allows the convening of planning committees via video-conferencing, addressing a major potential hurdle to planning decision-making.

Temporary relaxation of planning regulations

Extended permitted development rights came into force on 24 March 2020 to enable pubs, restaurants and cafes to operate as food takeaways for a 12-month period. This is on top of other government advice aimed at cutting red tape, for example the Written Ministerial Statement by Robert Jenrick on the 13 March 2020, in which local planning authorities are encouraged to act flexibly, and not to take enforcement action that would result in unnecessarily restricting the deliveries of food and other essential items during this period.

Activity at local authorities

It is fair to say that the current performance of local authorities is mixed, but working from home has become commonplace in many councils over the last few years and in a lot of places decision-making is still happening, including at committee level (and we can expect this to increase as a result of the Coronavirus Act – see above). As a result, in local authorities with good technological support, the immediate impact has been relatively limited to matters which require human contact, such as meetings and consultations, and even here there seem to be improvements all the time.

Keeping the system moving

Last week the Chief Planner, encouraged local authorities to be innovative in decision making, including exploring opportunities to use technology for meetings and consultations, anticipating and seeking to address the areas of greatest challenge – ie officer/applicant meetings, and public consultation exercises (both pre-and post-application).

In short, things are changing on a daily basis, but one of the bright points of the situation is the commitment that the Government and many local authorities have to maintain their planning services as far as possible and under very challenging circumstances. Therefore, our advice to clients is that – where possible – development should continue to be vigorously promoted in order to ensure that proposals are in “pole position” once normality starts to set in again.

As the situation evolves, further updates will be circulated over the coming weeks. In the interim, to discuss this and any other queries arising as a result of the current situation, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys.

The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt across the globe, and the town planning system is no exception. Social distancing measures threaten to slow the system, given that:

  • The Planning Inspectorate are postponing all local plan examinations, appeal site visits, hearings and inquiries. The decisions on how to proceed will be at the discretion of the individual Inspector, but this could mean more appeals being dealt with under written representations, although technological solutions are being considered, where feasible.
  • There are an increasing number of planning committee meetings being postponed to uphold the social distancing guidance, although with no centralised guidance currently available to Councils on how to proceed, it will be down to each local authority to decide how best to avoid a growing backlog. This may encourage some local authorities to engage a smarter use of technology, or even a shift towards more applications being dealt with under delegated powers; however there is unlikely to be a seamless transition or centralised solution and some delays in the short term at least, seem inevitable.

However, on the other hand the government are already introducing a number of measures to ensure that the planning system doesn’t act as a barrier in these unprecedented times. So far, such changes include:

  • The government are relaxing permitted development rights to allow pubs (Use Class A4) and restaurants (Use Class A3) to operate as hot food takeaways (Use Class A5) for a period of up to 12 months.
  • In a Ministerial Statement, Robert Jenrick announced that local planning authorities in England should take a positive approach to ensure that planning controls are not a barrier to food retailers and distributors, as well as the freight industry to enable the delivery of food, sanitary and other essential products to be made as quickly as possible.

Evidently the news, impacts and responses are changing on a daily basis at the moment, but Rapleys will keep you up to date with these changes and what they could mean for your sites, applications and businesses.

As flagged in the Chancellor’s Budget on 11 March, proposals to reform the planning system were set out the following day by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in the 11 page ‘Planning for the Future’ publication. The paper acts as a prelude to a series of major publications due later this year, beginning in spring with what is hailed as an ‘ambitious’ Planning White Paper offering ‘creative solutions’ to modernise the planning system. However, some of the proposals sound quite familiar.

Last week’s publication proposes several initiatives for planning reform, which aim to support communities to deliver more homes, help first time buyers, create ‘beautiful, sustainable places’, ensure a commitment to affordable housing and work towards the Government’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

Promoting well-planned development

Measures to promote development include:

  • Investment in brownfield land and the launch of a national brownfield map;
  • Calls to build above stations in urban areas;
  • The introduction of new permitted development rights this summer to build upwards on existing buildings;
  • Permitted development rights to allow the demolition of vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings, to be replaced with ‘well-designed’ new residential units;

Many of the proposals feel far from new, particularly some of the other initiatives announced, including reviewing the formula for calculating Local Housing Need and setting a deadline for all local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan (December 2023).

Spatial initiatives

The initiatives also include a spatial element in the form of a new Spatial Framework for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, which will involve up to four new Development Corporations. This proposed commitment will be well received by those who have been calling for support from central Government for a strategic approach for the ‘Ox-Cam Arc’. However, this appears to be harnessing growth that is already happening, rather than an attempt at kickstarting regeneration in deprived areas.

Speeding up the system

The White Paper will also include specific measures aimed at speeding up the processing of planning applications, which will include a new planning fee structure, measures to ensure planning permissions are built out more quickly, as well as automatic rebates for planning application fees when refusals are successfully appealed.

However, perhaps the most notable measure to accelerate the planning system is the proposed expansion of zonal tools such as Local Development Orders (LDOs). Whilst LDOs have been available for a number of years, their use has been limited in practice and it will be interesting to see if the initiatives go as far as the Policy Exchange’s recommendations earlier this year, in their ‘Rethinking the Planning System for the 21st Century’ report.

Good design and placemaking

As well as seeking to accelerate the system and encouraging delivery, the publication places significant emphasis on design. It announces that the NPPF will be revised (yet again) to further embed the principles of good design and placemaking, alongside taking forward the recommendations of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report.

In related news

Jenrick also illustrated his commitment to housing delivery elsewhere last week in his deeply critical letter to Sadiq Khan to express his disappointment at the Mayor’s London Plan falling significantly short of meeting London’s identified housing need, and its ‘layers of complexity.’ Jenrick has directed that the Plan cannot be published until certain Directions have been incorporated and requests a commitment to maximising delivery in London, inviting the Mayor to regular meetings to ensure his requests are met.

Concluding comments

The proposed planning reforms are evidently at a very early stage, and we will be looking very closely on how the initiatives are developed. However, any proposals that render the planning system more predictable and straightforward to navigate will no doubt be welcomed by the industry. That said, from the announcements it would appear that a lot of the thinking is far from revolutionary.

For any further detail or clarification do not hesitate to contact Olivia or one of the Town Planning team at Rapleys.

Yesterday’s Budget announcement contained a clear message of business continuity as the Chancellor relayed emergency measures to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus. Public health, the NHS, SMEs and workers were the primary focus, but for the property industry, there were still some takeaway messages. Not least, an announcement of short term emergency Business Rates relief, as well as a programme of investment launched for roads and infrastructure. Key members of our service teams add their comments.

Retail & Leisure Group

Russell Smith, Partner, comments; ‘overall there was some welcome, positive news for the high street, in particular for small shop and restaurant owners who will see an increased business rates discount. It is a temporary and extreme step sadly in light of the destabilising Coronavirus pandemic, but nonetheless it is well needed and overdue for the ailing retail sector.

The announcement to hold a review into the long term future of business rates should make a marked change to the future of the high street. This will need to be implemented in a timely manner however as there is likely to be a further reduction in footfall in high street across the country in the months to come.’

Alfred Bartlett, Partner, adds ‘ironically, the digital service tax (2% tax introduction on digital businesses) will also help bricks and mortar retail and may prove a good first step in balancing the investment in trading formats and redressing the high street decline.’

Automotive & Roadside

Phil Blackford comments; ‘the Government have announced a fund of £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles ensuring that drivers will never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station. That is very welcome news to both manufacturers and EV charge suppliers and hopefully will provide the much needed kick start to creating the necessary infrastructure in the UK to align Government targets, manufacturer’s development and production and a structured network of EV charging stations.’

Town Planning

Jason Lowes, comments; ‘in terms of planning, most of the announcements in the Budget were primarily financial commitments, with the Government’s planning reform initiatives saved for today’s announcement by Robert Jenrick. These indicate that a planning white paper will be released in the spring, addressing a wide range of matters, including:

  • Introducing a “zonal” element to the planning system
  • Further measures to encourage development on brownfield land
  • Initiatives to speed up the planning system

By way of background to the above, the Government feels that the planning system is holding back the delivery of housing, and that these initiatives will break down barriers. However, they are all at a very early stage, and we will be looking very closely on how they develop. Nevertheless, any initiatives that render the planning system more predictable and straightforward to navigate will no doubt be welcomed by the industry. Rapleys Town Planning team will be releasing a fuller newsletter on these reforms shortly.’


Rapleys’ Town Planning and Retail & Leisure Group work closely with Lidl’s national acquisition department and are delighted to share some of our latest acquisitions for the discount grocer as they reach a pivotal milestone in Great Britain and open their 800th store.

Rapleys work in partnership with Lidl on a spectrum of services, from initial planning appraisals, scoping reports, property acquisition and public consultation. See below for highlights of some of the deals or speak to the team for more information.

Lidl acquisition Altrincham Lidl acquisition Cambridge Lidl Swindon acquistion Lidl Manchester picadilly

Featured properties include Altrincham Retail Park, Cambridge Retail Park, Swindon Orbital Retail Park and Manchester Piccadilly Gardens.

Further details are available here or via the download button.

The latest results for the annual Housing Delivery Test (HDT) were made available last week. The HDT requires councils to deliver a set number of houses in line with adopted requirements. Those who do not meet these targets incur penalties of increasing severity depending on the degree of their failure. Rapleys have reviewed the latest figures, and provide the following analysis.

The HDT requires councils to have met their cumulative housing requirement over the past three years, with the results recorded as a percentage (where 100% indicates that delivery is exactly equal to the requirement). Failure incurs consequences. Local authorities may be required to publish a Housing Delivery Action Plan (all results below 95%), apply a 20% buffer to their Five Year Housing Land Supply calculations (all results below 85%), or – in the most extreme circumstances – be subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development (all results below 45%).

Last year’s results, published in February 2019, did not apply the presumption to any Council. However, the stringency with which the HDT is applied has increased over the period 2019-2021; as the test becomes more demanding local authorities are finding it harder to keep heads above water. This year, eight authorities are subject to the presumption: Basildon, City of London, Eastbourne, Havering, New Forest, North Hertfordshire, Thanet and Three Rivers. In total, 81 authorities are required to apply a 20% buffer to their housing supply (including the eight authorities listed above).

For those who are subject to the presumption, and therefore the ‘tilted balance’, it will be harder to justify refusal of planning applications. For those required to apply a 20% buffer to their supply calculations, they will find it harder to maintain a demonstrable five year supply. Authorities who are unable to demonstrate adequate levels of both delivery and supply, find themselves impaled by both of the presumption’s twinned horns.

This year has certainly given teeth to the government’s latest initiative to increase the rate of housebuilding across England and we expect next year’s results to show a substantive increase in the number of authorities subject to the presumption as the bar will rise from 45% to 75%.

Rapleys has experience in providing detailed, evidence-based analyses of housing positions in authorities up and down the country. This expertise, taking into account the latest HDT results, is able to identify the severity of present circumstances (and likely future positions) for the next five year period and beyond. Using this research, we can help to advise you of promising opportunities in the short, medium and the long term.


Following a six-week period of consultation in Summer 2019, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet have recently resolved to enforce a new city-wide Article 4 Direction, meaning a planning application will need to be submitted for proposals to convert family houses (C3 Use Class) to small Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) accommodating between 3 and 6 people (C4 Use Class). This will cancel existing Article 4 Direction which has been in place for some time across the Selly Oak, Harborne and Edgbaston areas of the city.

The new Direction will come into effect on 08 June 2020, with the existing Direction being cancelled on the same day.

The Council are also requesting that landlords of existing small HMOs declare their properties online by 8 June; after this date, existing HMOs which have not already been declared may require the submission of an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use or for retrospective planning approval.

For more information, including on how to declare an HMO property, please visit the Council’s website, or do get in touch with Sarah Smith or Jeevan Thandi in our Birmingham office for advice on planning implications.

Two years since the introduction of permitted development rights (PDR), aimed at making it quicker and easier to convert light industrial units (class B1[C]) of less than 500 sq m (5,382 sq ft) into residential units (class C3), the scheme has not had anywhere near the take-up the government was hoping for.

Applications have been slow coming in. A high proportion of those have been turned down as unsuitable and, in the process, some well-publicised horror stories have emerged of sheds crammed with uninhabitable, windowless flats by unscrupulous developers.

As a result, some of the industry experts Property Week spoke to say the idea was a mistake from the start and are calling for light-industrial-to-resi PDR to be scrapped, while others believe that – with a bit of tweaking – it could be fixed.

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at consultancy Rapleys, says that developers and landowners are not against the intent of PDR. “Our clients are always keen for things that make development simpler and easier to predict,” he says.

“PDR hasn’t been a failure; there just aren’t many properties out there that are suitable for doing it. There aren’t many properties out there that tick the boxes that the government has imposed in the right locations.”

You can read the full Property Week (15/11/2019) article here.

Sadiq Khan’s London Plan is closer to adoption after the Planning Inspectorate gave it the broad go-ahead in its report earlier this week. However, some substantial concerns were raised, and a number of potentially far reaching recommendations were made. When adopted, the new London Plan will replace the current, much consolidated version issued by London’s previous Mayor (now the Prime Minister).

A series of examination hearings were held on the draft new London Plan earlier in the year, and now the much anticipated Inspectors’ Report has been published. The report confirms that the Plan provides an appropriate basis for the strategic planning of Greater London, provided it is amended in line with the Mayor’s suggested changes and, more crucially, the recommendations put forward by the Inspectors.

In this vein, some of the Inspectors’ recommendations would seem to fundamentally change the Mayor’s approach, including the removal of the proposed presumption in favour of small housing developments and, perhaps most contentiously, a recommended commitment to a “strategic and comprehensive review of the Green Belt in London” (albeit to be undertaken as part of the next review of the London Plan).

Key Recommendations 

Evidently there is a lot to digest in the 125 page report, but the principal recommendations can be drawn into three interlocking themes:

  • The Inspectors’ recommendation to remove the presumption in favour of small housing developments, and cut the small sites housing target in half, after finding the Mayor’s aspirational policy approach to be “highly unlikely to occur, based on the available evidence”, placing an unreasonable expectation on the contribution that such sites can make in meeting housing targets.
  • The draft Plan seeks to apply a blanket approach to prevent the de-designation of Green Belt sites, which the Inspectors consider is not consistent with the NPPF. As a remedy, they suggest that the Plan commits to a review of the Green Belt in future policy work. In addition, alterations addressing the rather stringent original wording of Green Belt policies are suggested, effectively putting them in line with the NPPF.
  • The report finds that the need for industrial land is likely to be greater than assumed in the Plan, and that this demand could be “many hundreds of hectares”. In response, the Inspectors recommend that allowance is made for boroughs to review their Green Belt boundaries in emerging Local Plans, to make allowance for additional industrial capacity.


The Mayor has already voiced his opposition to some of the report; not least the principle of a London-wide Green Belt review and it will be interesting to see what his next move is. Further, any suggestion of releasing land from the Green Belt always proves politically contentious – to say the least.

However, in reading the report it is evident that the Inspectors have not come to their recommendations lightly, and from their perspective the recommendations relative to Green Belt policies are intended to bring the London Plan in line with national policy.

The Inspectors also insist that the matter of a Green Belt review must be considered in the light of their findings that “capacity within London is insufficient to meet the identified annual need for housing and the potential shortfall of industrial land in the medium to longer term”, emphasising the issue of competing land uses, and balancing the needs of a growing population against the protecting the fundamental aims of the Green Belt.

The Inspectors also raise difficult questions in respect of the considerable reliance on small sites, an approach which was not considered realistic, leading to recommendations to significantly reduce Borough targets for such sites. This stance, whilst appearing somewhat severe at first glance, is not unsurprising, given the difficulties that are often faced when bringing forward small sites for redevelopment, particularly in London, against the quantum of new dwellings that the new London Plan expected to be brought forward in this manner.

The shortfall in industrial land highlighted by the Inspectors will be familiar to anybody trying to find, for example, sites for logistics development in London, particularly in the inner boroughs, and therefore the attention given to this matter will be welcomed by those in the industry.

In summary, the matters raised by the Inspectors are quite significant and their view is clear that “it would be wrong to unilaterally rule out changes to the Green Belt”. However the report is equally candid in saying that the consequences of not adopting a London Plan would be worse than adopting one that does not meet the capital’s development needs. The ball is now in the Mayor’s court, and we await his response.

For further guidance, please get in touch with Olivia St-Amour or Jason Lowes.

Rapleys’ property and planning consultancy continues to show the ongoing growth of its business by announcing this week that the Cambridge team will relocate to larger premises, and therefore increase their profile, just nine months after opening in the city.

Remaining in the CB1 business district was of upmost importance to Rapleys and its new and existing client base. The practice has taken a private office at 50-60 Station Road; a modern, high quality environment, next to the station.

The new office will house, amongst other teams, the practices’ Town Planning, Development, Building Consultancy, Business Space and Automotive & Roadside departments.

Stuart Harris, Head of Cambridge Office comments: “Whilst Rapleys’ arrival in Cambridge was far from any ‘cold start’ with our long standing presence in the county, we have been delighted by the traction gained in our opening months in the city. This has necessitated a fairly rapid expansion of both the size and quality of space available to us.”

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, adds: “I am very pleased with the new office at Station Road and look forward to welcoming our clients to the innovative space. Our move is a direct response to client needs. We are excited by the future prospects in Cambridge and the wider region.”

Full contact details for the Rapleys Cambridge office:

50/60 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2FB
0370 777 6292 |

Featured in Commercial News.


On 01 October the Government released a replacement suite of planning practice guidance relating to design, as a key part of its attempts to encourage better quality development. The release follows the interim report of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission a few months ago and was trialled at the Conservative Party Conference earlier in the week. Although the new guidance does not have the formal status of planning policy, it is nevertheless relevant to both policy making and decision taking.

National Design Guide

Arguably at the heart of the new guidance is a ‘National Design Guide’ (NDG), a 70 page document which is intended to build on the policies within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that encourage high quality development, specifically by:

  • Defining ten characteristics of ‘beautiful, enduring and successful places’ with ‘looking forward’ checklists which include; the context and identity of different locations, natural and public spaces, efficiency in use of resources, and ensuring that development is ‘made to last’
  • Setting a ‘common overarching framework’ within which specific, detailed and measurable design criteria can be produced at the local level
  • The introduction of a National Model Design Code, which is intended to set the standard for local design guides and codes to be prepared by local authorities. However, the code itself is not included, instead it is confirmed that the draft code will be subject to consultation early next year, following the final reporting of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission in December.

On a practical level, it is clear that the Government wishes greater emphasis to be placed on the ‘story’ of the design evolution of development proposals, highlighting the role of design and access statements (which were brought in just over 10 years ago to address this matter in any event).

Other elements of the replacement guidance

The guidance framing the NDG includes further detail as to how the planning system should support well designed places. In addition to the NDG, the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) update includes:

  • Clarification of the role of strategic and non-strategic policies, masterplans and design codes
  • A commitment for local authorities to prepare a ‘Local Design Guide’ to be adopted as supplementary planning documents or appended to a neighbourhood plan
  • A reiteration of the Government’s commitment to pre-application discussions, and guidance on planning application related documentation such as parameter plans (for outline applications) and Design and Access Statements (as flagged above)
  • A commitment to community engagement on design matters and design review more generally.


It is clear that improving the quality of development design is a key Government aspiration for the planning system. However, in truth (and unsurprisingly, given the youth of the prime minister’s administration) this is at a very early stage. As matters stand the guidance, and in particular the NDG, deals with general concepts on a nationwide basis. In the short term, it can be anticipated that some local planning authorities will expect developers to design their schemes in a manner which clearly takes the NDG into account.

However, the new guidance and the NDG is likely to start in earnest once the National Model Design Code is published, and local authorities start to prepare their own Local Design Guide and Codes (albeit there is a question as to how many local planning authorities will have the resource and expertise to produce them).

More generally, if the design code approach promoted by the Government provides a greater degree of certainty in the planning process on a matter which is inherently subjective, this will no doubt be welcomed by landowners and developers. However, on the other hand, if not applied flexibly or geographically there is a danger that the national model design code approach promoted by the Government will create a level of prescription to development which is unjustified. This could result in monotonous development that does not take into account the unique physical context, history and the cultural characteristics of its location and surroundings.

If you have any questions or comments on the design guidance please speak to Sarah Fordham or Jason Lowes in the Town Planning department.

Furthermore, Neil Jones spoke to Property Week on his take on the timing of the announcement by Jenrick as well as the wider story. More details can also be found in The Times (04.10.2019).



Rapleys has made several new appointments across the business over the summer months, collectively strengthening our service offering, and representing the ongoing growth of the practice.

  • Campbell Moffat (Senior Associate, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Laura Briggs (Senior Surveyor, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Jamie Alderson (Planner, Town Planning)
  • Harriet Nind (Planner, Town Planning)
  • Marcus Fatoye (Surveyor, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Callum Dickinson (Graduate Surveyor, Automotive & Roadside)
  • Oliver Exton (Graduate Surveyor, Automotive & Roadside)
  • Bradley Wild-Smith (Accounts Assistant)
  • Stacey Collarbon (Property Accounts Assistant, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Ben Godfrey (Data Analyst, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Serena Ridley (Client Accountant, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Stephen Wilde (Client Accountant, Corporate Investor Management)
  • Shanice Redmond (QHSE/Data Management Assistant)
  • Emma Bailey (PA to Head of Building Consultancy Group)

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, comments; ‘I am delighted to welcome our new recruits and look forward to working with them to serve our clients’ needs in the future.’

Planning practice guidance (PPG) has been updated to reflect new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regulations that came into force on 1 September. Here are five key things you need to know about the changes.

  1. A section on ‘monitoring and reporting’ has been introduced.
  2. Councils are given autonomy over how they should consult when introducing a levy.
  3. More detail has been provided on how indexation should be applied to section 73 applications, which amend an existing planning permission.
  4. Guidance on spending CIL revenue has been revised.
  5. Authorities are explicitly advised that ‘charging authorities can use funds from both the levy and section 106 planning obligations to pay for the same piece of infrastructure.

Neil Jones, Partner in our Town Planning department, shares his views and comments on each of the above and how the updates might impact local authorities, developers and the general public alike.

The full article is on Planning Resource (4/9/2019).

Today’s statistical analysis from the ONS makes interesting reading. There was somewhat of a furore about a year ago when the ONS published – for the first time having taken over the statistical responsibility from MHCLG – the 2016-based Household Projection figures. These updated figures were interpreted by many to mean that fewer homes needed to be built than was previously thought. In particular, those arguing for lower levels of housebuilding saw the numbers as justification to scale back housing plans.

However, this approach risked undermining the government’s pledge to prioritise housebuilding and the overall national target of 300,000 new homes built every year. As a result, Government quickly stated that when calculating housing need, the previous2014-based Household Projections should be used. The primacy of the 2014-based figures was re-confirmed inupdates to the Planning Practice Guidance earlier in the year.

Given that today’s analysis concludes that the difference between the 2014 and 2016 figures were as a result of methodological improvements informing the latter, the issue looks likely to be a continued bone of contention between Local Authorities, developers and the government. Notwithstanding this, at least for now the 2014-based figures look likely to be the first port of call for the majority of base-line housing need calculations.

As featured in Planning Resource.

The Government has introduced changes to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), effective from 25 May 2019. The changes are intended to make it easier to convert certain properties to provide more homes and offices, but some changes have not been introduced and the question remains, is this enough?

The changes were made following a public consultation in October 2018 and were confirmed in the Government’s Spring Statement. However some key changes, including the proposed permitted development (PD) right allowing upward extensions to create new housing, have not been introduced at this stage.

PD rights and changes to use classes have increasingly been used by the Government as planning tools to encourage and allow greater adaptation and diversification of our high streets. This latest set of PD changes introduces the following key amendments:

  • The temporary provision in Part 1 Class A, allowing larger residential extensions, is made permanent, having been due to expire on 31 May 2019
  • A new Part 3 Class JA allows shops, financial and professional services, hot food takeaways, betting shops, pay day loan shops and laundrettes to change to office use, up to 500sq m. This is subject to prior approval, which will assess transport and highways impacts, noise impacts from commercial and retail premises, and the impact on the sustainability of the existing shopping area
  • Part 3, Class M will now allow hot food takeaways to change to residential use, up to 150sq m, subject to prior approval application
  • Part 4, Class D is amended to allow temporary changes of use between various high street uses, offices and leisure facilities for a three year period (increased from two years) and is widened to include changes of use to certain community uses

However, the changes do not include the proposed PD right that would allow upward extension to create new housing. Nevertheless, despite the fact that this was the subject of significant objection during the consultation period, not least due to concerns relating to design impacts, the Government has indicated that it still intends to implement this at a future, unspecified date.

The proposed PD right allowing the demolition and redevelopment of existing commercial properties to provide new homes has also not been included at this stage, albeit the Government has indicated that this remains under consideration.

Evidently, the Government is striving to deliver on the promises it has made to use the planning system to reshape and revitalise our high streets and town centres, create prosperous communities and encourage new housing in underused properties. So far, certain PD rights introduced pursuant to these aims have been taken up with vigour by the development industry. For example, since 2015, some 42,000 new homes have been created using the office to residential PD right. The further changes to the PD rights outlined above can therefore be generally welcomed as a means of providing greater flexibility within the planning system.

The delay in the implementation of the wider ranging PD rights relating to upward extensions and commercial redevelopment schemes is not unexpected, in the context of the weight of objections associated with these matters during the consultation period. These represent complex issues, with impacts on neighbouring amenity, and in particular daylight & sunlight and legal rights to light being significant considerations in the potential application of such rights, should they come into force in the future.

As ever with permitted development rights, the devil is in the detail and it is therefore advisable to ensure that full due diligence is undertaken prior to commencing any works that may be considered to benefit from PD rights. Rapleys Town Planning and Neighbourly Matters specialists are well placed to advise on such matters. Please get in touch for further information.

Rapleys updated Use Class Order (England) guide can also be found here.


Rapleys’ Automotive & Roadside team have been very active in East Anglia with support of service lines offered from the recently opened Cambridge office. In the attached are some examples of recent petrol filling station and roadside retail instructions. Click on the download button for full details.

For our full list of available properties click here. 


Rapleys are pleased to confirm a number of promotions across the business this month:

Senior Associate

Guy Davies – Building Consultancy Group, London
Rebecca Harper – Investment, London


Josie Hayes – Building Consultancy Group, Birmingham
Chloe Ballantine – Town Planning, London

Senior Planner

Conor Healy – Town Planning, London

Senior Surveyor

Charles Alexander – Development Services Group, London

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, adds: ‘It is a great pleasure to announce these promotions. They are well-deserved. I look forward to their ongoing contribution to the business and, more particularly, our valued client base.’


As featured in various publications. CoStar – click here.Commercial News – click here.

“Housing minister Kit Malthouse has announced the five successful bids to create new towns across England. Between them, these settlements could deliver 64,000 homes.

The communities will receive a share of £3.7 million in funding that aims to ‘fast-track’ specialist survey and planning works necessary for their development…

Jason Lowes, a partner in the planning team at Rapleys, said the funding deal is further confirmation that garden communities ‘very clearly’ remain a key part of the government’s new homes strategy. While they should be welcomed in principle, Lowes said they are ‘by their nature a long-term solution and only part of the picture.’

‘Nearer-term solutions, such as the expansion of existing cities, towns and villages, are also critically important to ensure that people who want to can find new homes close to their families. This needs to be pursued through intensifying densities in appropriate locations, not least town centres, and reviewing the spaces around existing settlement boundaries – including, if necessary and appropriate, green belt land – particularly brownfield green belt land.'”

For the full article go to The Planner by clicking here.

As the Scottish Planning Bill continues to make its way slowly through the Parliament, further concerns are being raised at the cost of the amendments proposed at Stage 2.

MSPs on the local government committee had made 230 amendments to the bill adding in extra powers and responsibilities for planning authorities.

A new Financial Memorandum on the Bill has also been published and it highlights a few key figures which would result from these proposals:

  • Planning Authorities could see up-to an additional £75 million of costs for managing the system
  • Businesses/development community could see more than £400 million in additional costs

Since the turn of the new year, many of us involved in advising clients and working within the planning system, as well as economists and professional bodies have voiced concerns at the nature of this Bill and how it has been transformed from its original purpose. From our considerable experience of working across numerous Planning Authorities in Scotland, Rapleys agree that this additional financial burden will do nothing to help the already stretched planning services. How this helps make Scotland a competitive and attractive location is also questionable.

There has to be a realisation that if Scotland makes the planning system too difficult and burdensome for those seeking to invest here then that capital can go elsewhere.

Rapleys Scottish Planning Team has been and continues to monitor progress of the passage of this bill in order to be able to fully advise on its potential ramifications on our existing and future clients, and we would be interested to get the views of others on this crucially important stage.

Please contact James Reilly or Grant Allan to discuss the bill, or for any general planning requirements.

Commercial property and planning consultancy Rapleys has advised Lookers PLC on the development of its new £10m dealership located on York Road, Battersea.

The 90,000 sq ft Volskwagen dealership forms part of a multi-million pound mixed-use joint venture between Lookers and Linden Homes. The state of the art dealership comprises the first three floors of the development, including significant amenity and customer experience space as well as a state-of-the-art automotive services department.

The multi discipline Rapleys team, led by partner Angus Irvine, brought together experts from across the firm’s Development, Planning, Investment and Building Consultancy practices to work with Lookers to maximise the significant land value of the site.

Principally this included a full planning and feasibility study, resulting in the unlocking of air rights to facilitate a multi-storey, mixed-use development comprising both the car dealership and a residential scheme. Rapleys identified and secured Linden Homes as the joint venture partner for the project, subsequently securing planning permission for the full commercial and residential scheme, to include 174 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, both private and affordable, across the fifteen storey, four tower development.

Rapleys also advised Lookers on relocating the existing dealership to an alternative site while works were being undertaken, to minimise any disruption to the day-to-day business.

Angus Irvine, Partner and head of Development, commented: “As competition for land, particularly in urban conurbations, increases, it is critical that investors and developers have a creative approach to maximising the value of their assets. Frequently this means changing or expanding uses and more often than not, building up rather than out. Lookers’ new dealership is a terrific example of this; maintaining and enhancing commercial operations while delivering much needed private and affordable housing in the heart of London courtesy of JV partner Linden Homes.”

As part of a series of announcements last week, the Government surprised many by replacing its national planning policies with a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). However, now that the dust has settled it looks like two of the other announcements, changes in National Planning Practice Guidance and the Government’s first annual reporting on its Housing Delivery Test, are nevertheless as, if not more, relevant.

Another National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The original NPPF was published in 2012, and it took six years to be replaced in July 2018. Less than 9 months later, this document has now been superseded. However, the changes in the document appear, at first glance, to be minor at best. The substance of the changes can be summarised as follows:

• As a result of a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, a paragraph has been changed to make it clear that the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the proposal will have a “significant effect” on a habitats site, unless an assessment has concluded that the proposal will not adversely effect the integrity of that habitats site (paragraph 177).

• A footnote has been amended to state that “where local housing need is used as the basis for assessing whether a five year supply of specific deliverable sites exists, it should be calculated using the standard method set out in national planning guidance” (footnote 37).

• An amendment to the glossary to confirm that non-major sites with outline consent should be presumed deliverable, unless there is evidence that they are not, effectively flipping the presumption for this type of development (definition of “deliverable sites”).

• A further glossary amendment to clarify that alternative approaches to the standardised method of calculating housing yield should only be used in policy making and not, for example, housing land supply statements (definition of “local housing need”).

All in all, the changes to the NPPF can be boiled down to; one change in the main body of the document, one footnote change and two glossary amendments. As such, they represent a tightening up of the 2018 version rather than indicating any broader change in approach.

On the positive side, planners across England will be heaving a sigh of relief that they don’t have to memorise another raft of paragraph numbers. However, the publication of such a similar policy document, so soon after the last one, raises the question of whether we can expect new NPPFs to be published on a regular basis.

Practice Guidance changes relative to calculating housing need

In an attempt to simplify the system, last year the Government introduced a standard method of calculating housing need, based on household projections. However, this was somewhat undermined by the publication, last autumn, of new household projections based on 2016 data, which suggested, when applied to the standard methodology, a housing need that was far below the Government’s nationwide aspirations.

The Government has since made it clear that these projections should not be used, preferring the earlier, 2014 based data. Last week’s change to practice guidance represents a further cementing of this position. However, this is likely to prove temporary as the Government is reviewing its methodology and we can expect further announcements on this later in the year.

Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results

HDT was introduced by the Government in the 2018 NPPF as a way of measuring the actual delivery of additional dwellings in a local authority area against need. The results of these tests are of high importance to both local authorities and developers; substantial under-delivery against the test triggers the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The results indicate that over a third were below the 100% pass rate and many were considerably lower. Of these, 87 of the worst performing local authorities will need to apply a 20% buffer when calculating housing need. In addition they, and a further 22 authorities, will need to produce “action plans” to remedy the situation.

The presumption in favour of sustainable development has not been triggered by any local authority yet, but this is because the threshold for substantial under-delivery is currently 25% of need. It will rise next year, and then again in 2020 to its final level of 75%. Around 20% of local authorities would currently fail against this yardstick.


The release of new national policies would normally be a major planning story, but in reality the changes are incremental and reflect government thinking that we were already aware of. The same is true of the changes to planning practice guidance.

In this context, the biggest takeaway of last week’s announcements is likely to prove the HDT results – these illustrate that housing delivery falls short (in some cases far short) of Government aspirations. Although this is hardly news in itself, local authorities will be under considerable (and growing) pressure to increase the numbers of new homes, particularly in the worst performing areas, with knock-on opportunities for developers and landowners.

If you would like to discuss how the planning system might add value to your property portfolio, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Rapleys’ property and planning consultancy continue to deliver on their ambitious business development plan with the announcement of the latest office move for the Edinburgh team.

The team moves to Rutland Square this week, after a decision was taken not to renew the lease in Caledonian Exchange. The move provides Rapleys with superior accommodation that better suits their needs as well as a growing client base. By stepping over into EH1, Rapleys are at the centre of the commercial property market in the city and ultimately their valued clients will benefit from this accessible and vibrant location.

The key service lines offered from this hub are Town Planning, Corporate & Investor Management, Business Space, Retail & Leisure and Automotive & Roadside. With local knowledge and national insight from the wider network of offices the professional teams provide comprehensive property and planning solutions on a value-added basis consistently.

Colin Steele, Partner and head of the Edinburgh office, comments: “this move comes at a great time as we continue to expand the team and service lines available here from our Edinburgh hub. On a wider practice level, the last 12 months have seen many of our regional offices move up and on to better spaces, improving the environment for the benefit of colleagues and clients alike. It is great to align ourselves to the overall business development plan and we will continue to offer the excellent, local services that our clients value us for, from this new location.”

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner adds: “I am delighted with the new office space at Rutland Square. It is a recognised and established business address in the heart of the city. Needless to say, we look forward to welcoming clients to, and advising from, our new home in Edinburgh.”

Full contact details for Rapleys Edinburgh

8A Rutland Square
Edinburgh EH1 2AS

0370 777 6292

Property and planning consultancy Rapleys announces the launch of a new office in Cambridge. The new office is Rapleys’ second in Cambridgeshire, with the firm being founded in Huntingdon and maintaining a strong presence and heritage in region since 1951.

The Cambridge office consists of both professional advisory and transactional teams from across Rapleys’ service lines, delivering a joined-up, multi-disciplinary offering to clients in the region. Each team consists of professionals who live and work in the city, with strong established relationships across Cambridge’s range of complementary consultancy services.

Stuart Harris has been appointed Head of the Cambridge office, and joins Rapleys with more than 30 years’ experience working in the industry and region, including roles with Strutt & Parker and Carter Jonas.

Stuart, alongside the existing partnership, will be responsible for promoting and coordinating the delivery of the firm’s core property consultancy and town planning services in the city, including: Town Planning, Building Consultancy, Development, Affordable Housing & Viability, Commercial Agency, Landlord & Tenant and Investment.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner at Rapleys, commented: “Our new Cambridge office, alongside the appointment of Stuart, represents a key further stage in Rapleys’ evolution, which builds on our long-established heritage, presence and reputation in the region going back to the founding of the firm in Huntingdon in 1951. We saw a real opportunity in Cambridge, which is undergoing substantial growth, and a market opening where we can bring in services – such as Affordable Housing and Viability, Strategic Land, Building Consultancy and Town Planning – which are currently underrepresented in the region or are subject to increasing demand. At the same time, our expanded footprint and capacity in the region further complements our national expansion programme – providing clients access to partner-led teams with both local expertise and UK-wide reach.”

Stuart Harris, Head of the Cambridge Office at Rapleys, added: “Principally I am delighted to join Rapleys at this exciting juncture. There are significant opportunities in Cambridge, which is rapidly increasing in commercial importance and is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. This looks set to continue – not least driven by the wider strategic plan for the region including the Cambridge-Oxford arc and expressway – and we are seeing an increasing demand particularly for planning and consulting services from businesses seeking to capitalise on this growth. I look forward to working with the wider Rapleys team to help clients seize these opportunities.”

Rapleys’ Cambridge team can be contacted at 20 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2JD / 0370 777 6292.

Following a two year delay since the first draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), the revised draft was finally approved by the Combined Authority on 7 January. Once adopted the GMSF will provide the strategic plan for the ten combined authority areas of Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

If you have sites in any of these areas, now is the time to be considering promoting or protecting them through the planning system.

The revised draft follows Mayor Andy Burnham’s manifesto pledge of 2017 for a ‘radical rewrite’ to ensure no net Green Belt loss. In reality, this has been impossible to achieve, but the revised net loss of the Green Belt (at 2,419 hectares) has been reduced by around 50% with, instead, a clear focus on making the most of Greater Manchester’s brownfield sites.

Other notable changes include:

  • Prioritising redevelopment of town centres and other sustainable locations;
  • A revised minimum housing target of 201,000 net additional dwellings to be delivered over the period 2018-37 (an annual average of around 10,580) – a drop in average homes per year of about 7% compared to the 2016 draft;
  • Optimising densities in sustainable locations with a requirement of up to 200 homes per hectare in city centre locations, 120 homes per hectare in designated town centres and up to 70 homes per hectare in other town centres; and
  • A marginally greater increase in industrial and warehousing floorspace, of 4,220,000 sq m (compared to the 2016 target of around 4,000,000 sq m between 2015-2035).

Notwithstanding the overall reduction in the annual housing target, it will represent a challenge for some local authorities to deliver the number of homes now identified for their areas, with our assessment indicating that Stockport, Trafford and Oldham will be a key focus for new residential development in the context of existing delivery rates and 5YHLS. Depending on revised delivery test and 5YHLS figures, other authority areas may also need to find more sites for housing.

The current consultation and the updates to the 10 Local Plans that will follow therefore represent an important opportunity for businesses and landowners to promote sites and/or ensure that existing interests are protected. Rapleys can advise in this process so please do contact us for more information.


Two years after the original draft was torn up, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has now been rewritten. Whilst the rewrite represents a significant change in approach from the authorities, does it go far enough in aiding growth ambitions in the region?

On 21 January 2019 the rewrite of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will go out to consultation for an 8 week period. The document has been highly anticipated and when compared to the 2016 consultation document, it is refreshing to see the change in approach from the Greater Manchester authorities. The amount of Greenbelt to be released now stands at around 50% of the amount previously proposed and there is a renewed focus on meeting the need for new development through Brownfield sites.

Alongside the scaled back Greenbelt release, housing targets have also been decreased from 227,000 in 2016 to 201,000 in the current document. This 26,000 home decrease is likely to be viewed negatively by the development community and advocates of growth for the city region. It is considered that the scaled back Greenbelt release and the decrease in housing targets will be challenged by the development community through the consultation exercise and subsequent examination of the plan.

This plan has a greater focus on housing delivery via Brownfield sites and high density development in the most accessible locations. This in theory, represents the most sustainable approach to housing delivery, however actually delivering development on Brownfield sites is often more complex than it may initially appear.

To ensure these sites can practically meet the housing needs, contaminated land must be remediated, site constraints must be overcome and appropriate infrastructure provision will need to be in place. In many locations throughout Greater Manchester, the key to these sites coming forward will be the public and private sector working in partnership, as many sites will simply not stack up in viability terms at present for private sector developers alone. This approach has already been seen throughout Greater Manchester with many regionally important schemes being brought forward on this basis.

The shift towards an increased quantum of development in town and city centres within Greater Manchester, bringing more residents to these areas, can only be seen as a positive. The increased urban population will in turn, increase the amount of available expenditure and benefit the retail and leisure sector within these centres.

However, many town centres within the region simply have too much retail floorspace at present, which is no longer needed to serve their role and function. This surplus space should be consolidated through redevelopment or diversification. Secondary and tertiary centres also no longer need the wide range of retail representation they once had due to seismic change in shopping patterns currently being experienced.

Overall, the adoption of this plan is fundamental to ensuring the need for new development across Greater Manchester can be met. The delays in the plan coming forward to date have hindered the ability of investors to make decisions on development proposals in the region and hopefully, momentum is now behind the new plan which will get it over the line and provide certainty.

The plan will also provide the 10 Greater Manchester authorities with a basis on which to prepare their own Local Plans, which will work alongside the framework.

That said, political change and pressures still have the potential to de-rail the new plan’s progress. The key point of disruption in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework’s progress was the appointment of Andy Burnham as Mayor, which led to the plan being rewritten. Therefore getting a final plan agreed and submitted for examination before the next mayoral election in 2020 is likely to be crucial.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has confirmed that the official consultation period on this plan will run from 21 January to 18 March 2019.

If you would like any further information or wish to discuss how Rapleys can assist in promoting development sites within Greater Manchester via the new spatial framework and forthcoming local authority development plans please get in touch.


Rapleys has secured outline planning permission for 1,100 new homes at the former British Sugar factory site in York, following a Public Inquiry held in January 2018.

The 98 acre site, one of the largest brownfield sites in the City, is owned by Associated British Foods (ABF), who have been working with the City of York Council (in the context of appeal proceedings) and the local community to achieve the sustainable regeneration of the redundant site since its closure.

The approved masterplan provides new family homes, a primary school, two nursery schools, a multi-use community and sports hall, and over 22 acres of new public open space. In addition over £4 million of funding will be contributed towards infrastructure improvements, including highways works, sports and community facilities and secondary education provision in the local area.

The key matter addressed at the Public Inquiry was the provision of affordable housing. The Secretary of State agreed with the evidence put forward by the landowner, which demonstrated that given the significant remediation costs associated with the regeneration of the site, it was appropriate to accept a viable level of affordable housing in the first phase, with additional affordable housing at each subsequent phase of development to be provided based on a staged viability reassessment process.

Rapleys acted as lead Planning Consultant, as well as providing specialist advice on viability, affordable housing and Environmental Impact Assessment. Rapleys is delighted to have secured outline planning permission on behalf of ABF, and will continue to advise on the implementation of the regeneration scheme, which will provide much needed new housing and leave a positive legacy for British Sugar in the City of York.

Last week’s new housing statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government may have gone slightly unnoticed coming on the same day as Theresa May outlined her proposed Brexit agreement to ministers, triggering a sharp fall in housebuilders’ share prices. 

While the statistics showed new housing numbers have shot up 78% from the relative doldrums of 2012-13, when the effects of the financial crisis resulted in a decline in completions, year-on-year figures for 2017-18 only showed an increase of 2% on 2016-17. There is a danger that housing delivery is plateauing.

The Budget did contain an important loosening of planning rules, which may have an impact. Permitted development rights (PDR) remain an important tool for developers looking to bring forward housing and the sharp decline of PDR office-to-resi conversions in the housing statistics is eye-catching. The number of office-to-resi PDR conversions fell by 6,196 from 17,751 in 2016-17.

Clearly, after an initial wave of applications the number of viable sites has begun to dwindle. The Government has sought to address this by extending PDR to certain retail properties – both to boost housing supply and stimulate high street footfall.

But there are bigger changes on the horizon. The Letwin Review sought to find solutions that would improve housing supply, having acknowledged the lack of evidence of so-called land banking by developers. The numbers certainly suggest that developers are not holding back from delivering housing once planning consents have been given.

The Government’s response to Letwin is expected in February 2019. It will need to ensure it does not stymie, or undo, recent progress by increasing the complexity of the planning system. The 300,000 homes per year target remains an extraordinary tough challenge, one that can only be met with a sensible and sustainable approach to planning and development.

Published by Property Week on 20 November 2018. 

Buoyed with revised forecasts from the OBR, the Chancellor certainly had more wiggle room on Budget day than many expected, but there are questions over how his despatch box announcements will impact the delivery of much needed new housing. In other news, the Government is gathering opinions on two key housing related initiatives.

The Budget

In advance of the Budget, planning matters were heavily trailed, particularly in terms of promoting housing and rejuvenating the high street. However, perhaps inevitably, firm announcements were arguably a little thin on the ground.

In terms of housing, an extension (albeit a temporary one) of Help to Buy and the roll-out of backdated stamp duty relief for first time buyers of shared ownership property will likely provide a welcome boost to the voting public seeking to get on the property ladder. The stimulus package to support smaller house builders as well as strategic partnerships with nine Housing Associations across England will also be welcomed.

However, beyond this, a major focus relative to housing was on the publishing of the full recommendations of the Letwin review. Critically, Letwin found no evidence to support the allegations of so-called ‘Land Banking’ levelled against many developers. The real reasons behind the gap between planning consent and housing delivery are, as many planners would attest, far more complex (so complex, in fact, that the Government’s response will not be published until February next year).

Letwin’s recommendations relate particularly to the largest development sites (i.e. those with more than 1,500 homes) and would potentially see planning rules requiring developers to offer a range of “housing products” (which already happens to a large extent) and allowance for a bigger role for councils. When responding to the report, the government will need to be wary of making a complex system more complicated for developers and stretched local authorities.

As for the high street, the new reduction in Business Rates for certain small businesses is a welcome move but, at the same time, those retailers who have had difficult times recently would not blame this factor alone – rates are an important, though singular, piece of this puzzle. In terms of planning, the chief response was the announcement of a consultation to further extend permitted development rights – further details below.

Consultation 1: “Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes”

Although this consultation takes in a number of matters, such as reforms to how local authorities can dispose of surplus land and compulsory purchase guidance for new town development corporations, the most eye-catching part of this consultation is proposed extensions to permitted development rights.

These include:

  • Greater flexibility relative to land use in the high street although the only new suggestion relevant to the delivery of housing is the suggested ability to change the use of takeaway premises to residential without planning permission, which will surely have, at best, a limited impact.
  • The ability to add floors to existing development (potentially up to five storeys) without the need for planning permission – although, reading between the lines, the tension between this initiative and how it would take local circumstances into consideration is exercising the Government.
  • The ability to demolish commercial buildings and redevelop sites as residential without planning permission – this would, potentially, be a major step, and if implemented is likely to be highly restricted/controlled.
  • Other matters, including increasing the scope of permitted development in terms of electric charging, and a proposal to make permanent some temporary measures, specifically the ability to change storage and distribution facilities to residential use and residential extensions.

All in all, the consultation suggests some fairly sweeping changes relative to the delivery of housing. However, in our view it falls short in terms of land use in the High Street – many were hoping for a further widening of permitted development relative to converting shops to residential. Comments on the proposal are sought before 14 January 2019.

Consultation 2: “Technical consultation to updates to national planning policy and guidance”

Announced the Friday before the Budget, the Government is also seeking views on matters relative to national planning policy. Given that the NPPF was only adopted in July, it might seem slightly counter-intuitive to be considering changes already, however as much as anything this consultation is about how local authorities should consider housing need through the planning policy process, in light of the household projections, based on 2016 data, released by the ONS in September.

As suggested by the title, the consultation is somewhat technical, but the broad background to this is the Government’s moves to standardise the calculation of housing need across England (Standard Objectively Assessed Need, or SOAN). Using the Government’s methodology, SOAN is calculated using household projections as a starting point. However, the latest household projections were seen as putting a spanner in the works, as in many places the resulting SOAN calculations resulted in a significant drop in numbers, in sum falling far short of the Government’s aspirations to deliver 300,000 new homes per year.

For those following this closely, the headlines are:

  • For the short term, 2014-based household projections should be used as the demographic baseline (not the aforementioned, and lower, 2016-based projections).
  • It is clarified that the 2016-based projections cannot be used as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to justify a departure from the standard methodology.
  • In the long term the standard methodology will be reviewed to support the aspiration of delivering 300,000 dwellings a year.

Other matters included within the consultation include defining “deliverable” in terms of housing, and a suggestion that the assumption in favour of sustainable development should still apply for development requiring a Habitats Regulation Assessment, if there is no adverse effect. Comments are sought before 7 December 2018.

If you would like to respond to the consultations, or discuss the Government’s changes to the planning system further (and in particular explore how they could add value to your property portfolio), please get in touch.

Jason’s comments were cited further in CityAM 30 October 2018 – click here

As part of emerging growth plans for the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc, which includes the £215 million Growth Deal for Oxfordshire announced in late 2017, the Government has published a plan showing the broad alignment of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, a key component of its future growth strategy for the Arc.

The Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc is one of the most economically successful in the country and competes internationally for high-tech and science investment. Following a request from the Government, the National Infrastructure Commission investigated ways to maximise the potential of the area. The report subsequently published in November 2017, concluded that rates of house building in the area will need to double if the arc is to achieve its economic potential.

The absence of a direct dual carriageway link between Oxford and Cambridge had been recognised as a significant infrastructure barrier and constraint to growth. To address this, in November 2016, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study Stage 3 Report (Highways England/Department of Transport) was published and identified three corridor options for further assessment:

  • Option A: a northern option, roughly following the existing A421 to the south of Bicester and via Buckingham to the east of Milton Keynes.
  • Option B: a central option, following the east-west rail corridor.
  • Option C: a southern option via Aylesbury, linking to the M1 south of Milton Keynes.

A decision on the preferred corridor option for the expressway has been eagerly awaited by the development industry. There are areas within this corridor and in close proximity to the expressway, that will in future become natural locations for strategic housing and employment growth that will be identified in future Local Plans. The announcement this week, that Option B is the preferred broad alignment will help to define the parameters of this critical growth axis and establish areas of search for long term strategic development opportunities.

Rapleys has significant experience in undertaking site searches and identifying long term strategic development opportunities. For further information please contact either Tony Clements or Dan Sharp.

At the eleventh hour before Parliament broke for recess and amid a flurry of social media anticipation (“#freetheNPPF” trending heavily), the Government has finally released its new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), replacing the erstwhile version published in 2012.

The new NPPF represents the Government’s planning policies for England when local authorities are determining planning applications, albeit it will only come into force relative to local plan making for plans that are submitted for examination after 24 January 2019.

The document has been sold by the Government as a key tool in unlocking housebuilding, but in truth it is very tempting to see it as an update of its predecessor, rather than a root and branch reform. For example, the concept of the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” remains, and the policy framework relative to matters such as retail and the Green Belt remains largely unaltered.

Nevertheless, there are a number of important headlines, as well as concepts formalised, within the document. Some of the key points arising are as follows:

  • Standardised housing need – the Government’s standard methodology for calculating a local authority’s need for housing will come into force on an England-wide basis in January 2019. However, allowance is made for local plans not meeting all of its identified need for housing in “exceptional circumstances”, and one can anticipate a number of local authorities arguing that these arise in their areas.
  • Housing delivery test – every November, the Government will publish statistics of how many new homes are delivered in each local authority against the number of homes needed (see above). Where authorities score poorly in this will trigger the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” (as will a lack of five year housing land supply). Most developers will welcome this, but it can be anticipated that how this works in practice will be debated for some time to come.
  • Green Belt – although the basic principles of the Green Belt remain from the previous NPPF (which, in itself, broadly replicated its predecessor on the matter, PPG2), there are some differences. Potentially the most significant change is the inclusion of the redevelopment of brownfield sites that would “contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need” and not cause “substantial harm” to the Green Belt as “appropriate development”.
  • Viability and affordable housingunlike the draft NPPF published earlier in the year, the final document explicitly confirms that developers will continue to be able to submit viability assessments on individual sites at the planning application stage. However, the onus is on the developer to make a site specific case. Local authorities are given discretion as to how much weight this should carry, and the price paid for a site cannot be used as a basis for benchmark land value. The Government published new guidance providing further details on this in parallel to releasing the NPPF – we will issue a more detailed newsletter on the key points arising shortly.
  • Design quality – the document places additional focus on design and indicates that the quality of development should not be “materially diminished between permission and completion” – however, few suggestions are presented as to how this should be implemented.
  • Residential density – the well-established principle of making the best use of land is strengthened, and the document states that local authorities should adopt minimum density standards in their areas, and take a flexible approach to matters of daylight and sunlight.

Looking at the bigger picture again, although the focus on dealing with England’s massive shortage of housing is laudable, there is a risk that other land uses are overlooked. Not least, the NPPF appears to have little new to say as to how the planning system can ensure employment-generating development (not least retail) can adapt to an ever-changing economy.

Largely, the NPPF should be seen as evolution of the existing planning system, and it is a positive step forward even if it is not a leap. However, if experience from the last NPPF is anything to go by, one can expect a flurry of appeals over the coming years as developers and local authorities put the document into practice.

For any future details on this Planning Policy please get in touch directly with Jason Lowes, Partner in Rapleys Town Planning department.

This week, the Scottish Government Reporters recommended that the next strategic development plan for South East Scotland, SESplan 2, fell far short in terms of housing targets and needed to be revised.

Planning authorities in South East Scotland have spent four years preparing a new plan and housing targets proved the main area of contention. Rapleys have always been of the opinion that the plan did not go far enough in tackling the widely acknowledged shortfall in housing within Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife and the same conclusion has been reached by the Reporters.

Key findings include:

  • 94,416 new homes need to be built across South East Scotland by 2030 – an increase of over 30,000 on what was originally proposed.
  • To meet this target, more land (not limited to previously developed/brownfield land) will need to be allocated for home building.
  • Planning authorities must recognise and address the shortfalls in supply that commonly arise as plans age. If too few homes are built in the first few years, more will need to be built in the rest of the plan period.

Following this publication James Reilly (Planning Associate, Edinburgh) comments: “we are pleased to see the findings of the Scottish Government Reporters which paralleled our thoughts as SESplan progressed. Being based in the SESplan area, the Scottish Planning Team are acutely aware of the housing issues in the region and have long advocated for further housing allocations across the numerous local authority areas. We understand that our clients wish to deliver new housing and this is a very positive step in helping them deliver this. We will certainly be taking these comments on board and advising clients on how to take their sites forward”.

Please get in touch with the Rapleys Scotland team (James Reilly, Grant Allan, David Costello and Richard Huteson) if you require any advice on new or existing development sites; or arrange to come into the office for an initial discussion on development opportunities.



We are pleased to confirm the following promotions (effective May 2018):

Equity Partner

Simon Harbour – Building Consultancy & Project Management

Nick Fell – Affordable Housing & Viability

Neil Jones – Town Planning

Richard Huteson – Town Planning


James Porter – Building Consultancy & Project Management

Senior Associate

Colin Arnott – Corporate & Investor Management


Alex Chambers – Building Consultancy & Project Management

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, adds ‘I am delighted to announce these promotions. They underline the growth and ever increasing profile of the practice. I look forward to sharing our onward journey with them.’

On 6 April 2018, updated planning regulations came into force which allow for larger scale residential development to take place through the conversion of agricultural buildings, without the need for planning permission.

The amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2018 (SI 2018 no. 343) extended the permitted development rights in relation to agricultural buildings.

Permitted development rights allow for certain types of development and changes of use to be carried out without the need to submit a planning application.

Previous permitted development rights

Under the previous regulations (2015), agricultural buildings could be converted to residential dwellings, via permitted development rights, as long as the conversion did not create more than 3no. dwellings and no single dwelling could have a maximum floor space above 450 sq.m.

Permitted development rights now

The new regulations (2018) increase the number of houses that can be created from the conversion of agricultural buildings without the need for planning permission. Agricultural buildings can now be converted to provide:

  • 5no. small scale dwellings with a max floor space of 100 sq m; or
  • 3no. larger dwellings with a max floor space of 465 sq m; or
  • 5no. dwellings comprising 3no. large dwellings (a max floor space of 465 sq m) and 2no. small dwellings with a max floorspace of 100 sq m

What does this mean for land owners & developers?

The Government anticipates that the new regulations will result in an increase in the number of new homes created through the conversion of agricultural buildings. It is hoped that this will positively contribute to the supply of homes to meet local needs and result in the delivery of new houses which safeguard the character of local areas.

The changes to the regulations allow land owners and developers greater flexibility when considering the conversion of agricultural buildings both in terms of the number of new houses which can be created and the size of the dwellings. This in turn, should create more opportunities for small scale residential development within rural areas.

Whilst a planning application to convert an agricultural building to residential use is not required if the proposal meets the criteria set out above, along with some more detailed criteria, it will still be necessary to apply for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority to confirm that specified elements of the development are acceptable.

If you require further information or advice on how you might benefit from the new regulations, please contact Neil.

As an Investor in People (IIP) awarded company, Rapleys is committed to our staff and their development. We are pleased to announce that we have continued to grow our team in the last three months with 10 new professional appointments.

Our new team members will allow us to better service our clients and promote new service lines across our office network.

Please click through to the full newsletter to meet our new team members and those who have been awarded promo

Planning is back in the headlines as the government seeks views on England-wide changes to the planning system to solve the nation’s housing crisis. Specifically, the government has issued a re-draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as well as suggestions about how to amend the developer contributions regime.

Readers with long memories will recall that the current version of the NPPF was published in 2012 as part of the “bonfire of regulations” brought in by the coalition government. It introduced the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, a concept that has been the subject of much debate since.

The current NPPF emerged against a background of alarming stories in the press suggesting it marked the end of the Green Belt (which, obviously, it didn’t). So far, the headlines on its replacement have been somewhat negative and largely government generated, suggesting that the two main (seemingly slightly contradictory) problems with the planning system are:

  • Some local authorities (“NIMBY authorities”) are preventing development and
  • Housebuilders not building enough houses.

However, in any event there is not a great deal in terms of answers to either in the consultation documents. As to the latter point, the government has announced that Oliver Letwin will be carrying out an independent review before any measures are decided upon.

The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The document runs to 70 pages which is slightly longer than its predecessor and at first glance much is familiar, for example the various aspects (formerly “roles”) of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental). The presumption in favour of sustainable development is also intact, albeit with a small but potentially important change (see below).

However, there are many changes (some hidden in the footnotes), and some headlines are highlighted here:

  • In terms of the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the “tilted balance” to be applied, the draft refers to policies which are the “most important for determining the application” being out of date and a related footnote clarifies that other Local Plan policies cannot be applied under the aegis of the NPPF policies. If the NPPF is adopted as drafted, the implications of this seemingly minor change will be the subject of considerable debate at appeal and potentially in the High Court.
  • The draft reflects the nationwide method of calculating housing need currently being promoted by the government, albeit leaving other methods open in “exceptional circumstances”. Another important change is formalising the principle that, in preparing local plans, under certain circumstances local authorities do not have to meet all their housing need.
  • Joining the benchmark of the five year housing land supply in expressly triggering the presumption in favour of sustainable development is a “Housing Delivery Test”, a benchmark of actual housing delivery against need.
  • In terms of “encouraging” developers to bring forward consented schemes earlier, the draft makes allowance for local authorities to prescribe shorter time periods for implementing development than the current standard three years.
  • The draft allows for the redevelopment of brownfield sites in the Green Belt that has a greater impact than existing development, if it contributes to meeting local affordable housing need and the harm is not “substantial”. This marks, potentially, one of the largest changes to national Green Belt policies for many years.
  • In terms of planning obligations, the focus is on bringing viability forward as much as possible to the local policy process and for local plans to set percentages of affordable housing and define other obligations. However, there is still allowance for viability to be taken into account at planning application stage – more details below.

In summary, the draft looks more like an incremental change than a “root and branch” review, albeit some of the changes could have significant implications for development if adopted, as ever time will tell.

Consultation on planning obligations

The Government clearly has planning obligations in its sights and beyond the front-loading principle described in the draft NPPF, a number of potential changes to the current system have been proposed, not least:

  • Reintroducing “pooling” of s.106 contributions, under certain circumstances
  • Ensuring that the viability process is undertaken on an open book basis in all cases
  • The ability to link Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) rates to the existing use of land (at present it only relates to the proposed use of the land)
  • Bringing indexing closer to inflation
  • Introducing another acronym, a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT) is proposed, which would effectively be a CIL regime across local authority borders.

Some of these changes will be unpopular with developers, in particular the reintroduction of contribution pooling, an erstwhile feature of the town planning system that CIL was supposed to replace.

However, there may be potential benefits derived from the front-loading process when developers are bidding for sites (particularly those that have been allocated), as it might provide greater transparency relative to the local authority’s position on planning obligations at the outset.

Comments on the drafts can be made until 10 May 2018. If you would like to discuss the documents and their potential implications on your business, or would like us to help getting your views across to the Government, please contact one of our nationwide team.

Rapleys’ Automotive and Roadside team are active throughout the UK but with the opening of our Birmingham office in May 2016, our presence and activity has further strengthened in the West Midlands. We highlight here some of our recent successful transactions showing the range of work we undertake in the sector. 

Experience includes site acquisitions, project management, lease renewal, planning services and much more. We pride ourselves on providing an unmatched continuity of service and high level of expertise and knowledge to all, from an independent car dealer to a nationally represented client.


The Planner: 22/02/2018

“Given the costs involved in securing a planning permission, it is just not credible to imagine that developers would then sit twiddling their thumbs once permission is actually granted – however, that seems to be the starting assumption of the LGAs position.”

Noting that every council is different, Lowes said that the LGA’s plans would require a “quantum leap forward in terms of skills, funding and strategy”.

Read the full article on

We are continuing our expansion in the Midlands with the latest appointment of a new partner, Tony Clements, to establish and lead the town planning team in our Birmingham office.

Tony Clements joins from GL Hearn where he spent the last three years leading the regional planning teams. Tony’s appointment means Rapleys now offers dedicated retail & leisure, development, building consultancy and planning services to the Midlands area. The Birmingham office was opened in 2016 and is quickly expanding to reach the ambition of covering the full range of services for developer, investor, landlord and occupier clients.

Tony has over twenty years’ experience as a professional planner and is an experienced expert witness. He has advised a wide range of private and public sector clients across a variety of sectors and has acted on a number of high-profile planning projects.

Tony has a strong track-record promoting large scale residential developments for many of the UK’s largest home builders.

Tony states: “I am excited to be joining the planning team at Rapleys at a time when there are significant opportunities to build on and expand our offer to clients in terms of technical capabilities, sector expertise and geographical coverage. I’m very much looking forward to carrying through the planning process a range of residential and mixed-use development projects that I have been working on across the midlands and nationally.

Delivering a client focused service has always been at the heart of my approach to planning consultancy and I am delighted to join a progressive and expanding team within a highly respected, independent property consultancy.”

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner at Rapleys, states: “I am pleased to welcome Tony to the partnership. He brings a wealth of experience in managing and promoting residential and commercial schemes through the planning system. He will, undoubtedly, foster and contribute to our ever expanding national planning business with a focus on the midlands market.”


This week the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, caught the headlines by publishing his new London Plan in advance of a consultation period starting next week. The Plan has been publicised as a major change to the planning regime in London, and was brought forward in large part to encourage homebuilders to develop sites at higher densities to substantially increase supply across the city.

The replacement London Plan will (as advertised) rip up the planning rules in the capital in the sense that it will replace the current London Plan and its amendments, authored by Boris Johnson – the introduction of the draft is very clear on that. However, in general terms the policies in the document follow long standing planning concepts, such as making the best use of accessible land (through increasing densities), strong protection of the Green Belt, discouraging the use of the private car and so on.

The document is 574 pages long and there is much to note, but some of the broader themes are summarised below:

  • The concept of “good growth”, which reads very much like an updated version of “sustainable development”. It is contrasted with “growth at any price”, which the Plan suggests has been the priority in recent years.
  • The document includes some quite detailed guidance on residential development (in its broadest sense), but much attention has been attracted to the focus on removing restrictions to increase the density of residential development, particularly in areas with good public transport accessibility. However, in truth, much development in London in recent years was consented at densities higher (sometimes far higher) than the ranges set out in Mr Johnson’s London Plan.
  • Encouragement of the night-time economy including protection of pubs, and the formalising of the “Agents of Change” concept (which, put simply, is the idea that new development is responsible for ensuring that it is properly mitigated, in terms of noise and disturbance, relative to its prevailing context).
  • A presumption in favour of sustainable development for housing on most smaller sites, albeit with some notable exceptions.
  • In terms of affordable housing, the Plan formalises and continues the principles set out within Mr Khan’s previously published guidance on the matter. There is an overall target of 50% affordable housing across the city, and viability will continue to be a key issue in bringing forward residential development.
  • As flagged in the press before the document was published, the Plan seeks to prevent new takeaways within 400m walking distance of primary or secondary schools (including schools that are merely “proposed”), although it is open to boroughs to set their own distances. Boroughs should also consider whether to manage (ie restrict) over concentration of takeaways in their town centres.
  • Discouragement of the use of the Vacant Building Credit, and a policy against fracking.

In this context, in many respects beyond the policies themselves, much of Mr Khan’s message seems to be that he will be very much a “hands-on” Mayor when it comes to planning and, beyond being involved in larger development proposals, he will also seek to influence smaller development. This would explain policies relating to development on small sites, and the discouraging of new take-aways. These are matters which would not be passed to the Mayor for comment when planning permission is sought for individual proposals, albeit evidently they are proposals that are seen by Mr Khan as raising strategic issues cumulatively.

If – as advertised – the London Plan does act as a catalyst for bringing forward the housing the capital needs, it should be welcomed. In this context, we will be watching trends closely to see how much of an activist Mr Khan ends up being, and just as importantly, the attitude of the local authorities in implementing the more detailed elements of the new Plan (particularly Conservative outer boroughs).

In the interim, comments are sought on the document until 2 March 2018. If you would like to find out more about the draft Plan, and how becoming involved with the consultation might create value for your business, please get in touch with Jason Lowes.

As some readers may be aware, the Government is midway through another consultation on proposed changes to the planning system, following the publication of the White Paper, “Fixing Our Broken Housing Market”, in March this year. In that White Paper, the Prime Minister said that Britain’s “broken” housing market is one of the greatest barriers to progress today.

The current consultation relates to England only and covers a range of issues, but most relevant to the reader is likely to be the Government’s proposals to introduce a standard method of measuring local housing need.


At present, the calculation of local housing need across England is carried out inconsistently, often resulting in protracted debate and delays to the local plan process. To streamline this, the Government is proposing a uniform approach that all local authorities should follow if they submit their local plans to the Secretary of State after 31 March 2018. This approach will also be the basis for the calculation of the five year housing land supply.

The new approach can be summarised thus:

  • The starting point remains projections of future household growth in each local authority area;
  • This is then “adjusted” to reflect average house prices in the local authority area, which essentially increases identified housing need in areas with higher house prices;
  • However, any increase is then capped to prevent need rising more than 40% above:
    – the annual housing need figure in an “up to date” local plan, or
    – where the most recent local plan is not “up to date”, projected household growth or the latest local plan housing requirement figure (whichever is higher).

Although any attempts to simplify the emerging policy process will be welcomed by many in the industry, the introduction of a cap seems to undermine the process to some degree. Further, the focus in adjusting need upwards in areas with high property values could see significant increases of identified need in parts of London, the South-East and affluent areas elsewhere in England, with decreases in areas that might be argued as needing housing growth and investment the most.


Almost hidden away towards the back of the consultation, there is an indication that the Government also intends to strengthen the ability of local authorities to refuse planning permission during the local plan making process. At present, in areas where local authorities struggle to adopt local plans, planning applications that are promoted in parallel to the emerging local plan process are often the only significant contributors to housing supply – this could potentially close that off.

t is unclear what the Government seeks to achieve with such measures and indeed, what they would mean in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the ‘tilted balance’. If the Government’s attempts to streamline the planning policy process work, any measures of this type would be unnecessary. If they do not work, this would effectively hand local authorities an extra tool to refuse development, which would in all likelihood exacerbate housing shortages – the opposite of what the Government seems to want. Although this initiative is announced in the context of a consultation, interestingly no views are invited at this stage on this particular point.

The consultation expires on 9 November. If you would like to discuss the consultation further or have any views you would like us to put to Government on your behalf (even on points where views haven’t been invited) please do not hesitate to contact Jason Lowes.

Although the majority of the delayed Queen’s Speech, and the media coverage of it, was predictably focused on Brexit, some development related matters were squeezed in.


Readers may recall that the Housing White Paper, published in February, identified the nation’s “broken” housing market as one of the “greatest barriers to progress” in Britain today. Notwithstanding this, the need for more homes was restricted to one passing reference in the speech, as an add-on to non-development related property reforms.

There is a commitment to delivering the reforms proposed in the White Paper, but this is only outlined on two thirds of a page towards the end of the background notes of the speech. There is little detail about how this is to be achieved, except for an implication that any initiatives will be pursued through non-legislative means.

Roadside development

In contrast to fixing the housing market, encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles is considered by the Government to be worthy of new legislation. The thinking behind this is perhaps difficult to argue with, but a part of the proposal is a requirement for motorway service areas (MSAs) and “large fuel retailers” to provide electric vehicle charge points.

Most MSAs have already installed charging points, but the vagueness of, and the potential financial burden arising from, the second category of facilities has already caused some concern in the industry. If “large fuel retailers” refers to operators, rather than individual facilities themselves, this could have a significant and detrimental impact on smaller and tighter sites, as few amenities can be offered whilst charging takes place, and space is already at a premium.


Also benefiting from its own bill is the next stage of the HS2 link between Birmingham and Crewe. The bill will include details relative to compulsory purchase of the land required to deliver it, as well as granting deemed planning permission to deliver the scheme (with the details to be developed in coordination with the relevant local authorities).


Although most recognise that Brexit will consume much of the Government’s time over the coming years, the Queen’s Speech suggests that development is now quite low on its list of priorities. This is particularly true of housing, which the Government itself has identified as one of the largest matters that Britain needs to address. If this is the case, at the very least one can anticipate a continued gap between development pressure and local appetite (in much of the country) for it.

As ever, time will tell – Rapleys will continue to keep a close eye on the situation, and keep you informed of developments as they emerge.

~ Jason Lowes

The long awaited changes to the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations come into force today. Rapleys reviews the key revisions proposed and what they mean for the development industry.

Following the EU Council’s decision in 2014 to amend the 26 year old Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, the Government undertook a consultation between December 2016 and February 2017 seeking views on the proposed changes to the Regulations.

The main purpose behind the changes is to improve the consistency and quality of the process and resultant Environmental Statements across the EU. Whilst the general process as we know it will not change, it will be more front loaded, potentially reducing the need for full EIA.

The key changes can be summarised as follows:

1. A new definition of the EIA process which could feed into project programmes for planning applications.

2. An enhancement of the screening process, which is now mandatory, with an emphasis on aspects of the environment to be significantly affected by development and the inclusion of mitigation measures at the screening stage. In reality, this has the potential to become a mini EIA, extending this particular obligation rather than streamlining it; however, it might also now improve the quality of the screening process which thus far, has been somewhat inconsistent within the UK planning system.

3. An opportunity for Local Planning Authorities to extend the 21 day mandatory deadline for Screening Opinions to 90 days, or an alternative period to be agreed in writing between both parties.

4. Inclusion of new or enhanced topic areas within Scoping Opinions including the replacement of flora/fauna with ‘biodiversity’, climate change, land, cultural heritage and consideration of major accidents and/or disasters (where necessary). Health impact assessments are also likely to be included within Scoping Opinions under ‘population and human health’.

5. The EIA must adhere to the received Scoping Opinion, where Scoping is undertaken. If the final EIA does not follow the Scoping Opinion it would not be compliant with the Directive. This could lead to applicants revising Scoping Opinions to ensure they take account of subsequent changes, plus an increased risk of legal challenge where Scoping Opinions are not revised to reflect the EIA proposal.

6. The introduction of monitoring measures for significant adverse effects – this may ultimately prove useful in determining the efficiency of the EIA process, however, this could also lead to more detailed conditions on decision notices and obligations within s106 Agreements. This could, in turn, add more risk and burden to developers with a need to ensure conditions comply with the tests in national policy and that monitoring is proportionate to the development proposed.

7. The use of competent experts to prepare the EIA submission for the developer and to examine it for the Local Planning Authority – although there is no actual definition or explanation as to what constitutes an ‘expert’. Responsibility will be placed on the developer to employ competent experts and justify this in documentation alongside the Environmental Statement, whilst the consenting authority must ensure that sufficient expertise is available to review the documentation.

For any help with EIA process, from inception to delivery, please contact Sarah Smith,

For the first time since its publication in 2012, the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guidance has been subject to a ruling by the Supreme Court. The judgment provided much needed clarity on a long running debate concerning paragraph 49, which states that ‘relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up to date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites’.

The Background

The debate about paragraph 49 was crystalised in two conflicting decisions by planning inspectors in separate appeals, with one inspector favouring a wide interpretation of ‘relevant policies’ to include all policies that influence housing development, and the other taking the view that only policies specifically concerned with housing supply are deemed relevant. These decisions were subsequently challenged and the Court of Appeal ruled that the definition of ‘relevant policies’ could include all policies that create or constrain land (such as green belt and countryside protection policies) for housing development (i.e. the wider interpretation).

Supreme Court Ruling

However, the Court of Appeal’s ruling was itself challenged. As a result the much anticipated Supreme Court judgement last week ruled that the Court of Appeal was wrong and that ‘relevant policies for the supply of housing’ legally requires a narrow interpretation. As such, policies that are not specifically related to housing supply will not be deemed “out of date” where a local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply. However, the judgement goes further than this, emphasising that the absence of a five year housing land supply triggers NPPF paragraph 14 and the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. This means that restrictive policies will remain a relevant consideration; however, these policies will have reduced weight if a five year supply cannot be demonstrated.

What does this mean?

Whilst it is early days, the Supreme Court ruling indicates that:

  • If a Local Authority cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply, only a narrow range of policies are out of date. However, the decision maker still needs to give weight to the lack of five year housing land supply against a wider range of policies.
  • The weighting applied will be at the discretion of the decision maker, with differing approaches potentially being taken. Whilst the Supreme Court judgment is clear that restrictive non-housing supply related policies should carry reduced weight in the absence of a five year housing supply, local planning authorities could nonetheless seek to rely on such policies if they are minded to resist development, particularly in sensitive areas such as the Green Belt.
  • Given the subjectivity involved in the decision making process, planning by appeal is still likely to continue as decision makers grapple with applying the appropriate weight to policies which would otherwise limit housing development.

For more information on this please contact Andrea Herrick or any other member of our nationwide planning team.



The Government has announced that all local authorities will need to produce up-to-date registers of brownfield sites available for housing, and that guidance to this effect will be issued around June this year. It has also confirmed that legislation about “Permissions in Principle” will follow later in the year to simplify the planning process for developers. While still understandably light on detail, the government’s proposals to streamline development of brownfield land is welcome progress. Both permission in principle and the launch of brownfield registers do bring the potential to more efficiently bring sites on stream although, as ever, the devil will be in the detail.

Taken together, the new mechanisms have the potential to lower the initial hurdle of bringing forward development through the planning system, and this has to be supported. Further, the owners particularly of small and medium sized sites would no doubt be pleased with a relatively simple method of getting on the planning ladder, and provide them with early confidence to further investigate the potential of their land.

Of course, the success of this venture very much depends on Local Authorities’ ability to keep the register up-to-date and implement the new permission in principle regulations. This has the potential to be a real administrative challenge and will require careful management to ensure the opportunity to increase the delivery of housing isn’t missed.

If you have or are aware of any previously developed land that might benefit from being on a brownfield register, or potentially from a “permission in principle”, Jason Lowes or one of our nationwide team would be happy to discuss this further.

Change has been the only constant in the planning system for many years, and obtaining up to date and commercially focused consultancy advice is key to making the most out of your property assets.

In 2016, Rapleys’ Town Planning team advised a wide range of clients, to this end, including:

  • Housebuilders
  • Strategic Land Companies
  • Investments Funds
  • Institutions
  • Landowners
  • Local Authorities
  • Commercial and Mixed Use Developers
  • Construction Contractors
  • Retailers
  • Roadside Operators
  • Leisure Providers

Our instructions from these clients involved cases throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

The services we provided included:

  • Preparation and submission of planning related applications and appeals
  • Planning feasibility and audits
  • Assessments of residential and employment land availability/supply
  • Retail and leisure capacity and impact assessments
  • Development Plan monitoring and representations
  • Expert evidence/witness
  • Masterplanning

A year of success

We have substantial expertise and ability in providing clients with robust advice to deliver positive outcomes across the UK wide planning system.

To use the example of permissions, our team pursued over 300 planning applications, to decision, for development proposals, advertisements and other matters. Of these submissions, 93% (285) were negotiated at application stage. In other words, they were granted consent without recourse to appeal. However, where appeals did prove necessary, the majority of the cases were allowed (won).

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner and Head of Town Planning, comments ‘These results underscore our proven track record in the delivery of results through the planning system. We pride ourselves on offering commercially driven and cost effective advice to the benefit of our clients’ balance sheets and development timelines’.

If you could benefit from such advice we would be pleased to hear from you, and bring our experience to the table in order to realise your aspirations and add value to your business.

For more information please contact one of our regional contacts.

London – Jason Lowes 07899 963524

Bristol Sarah Smith 07787 527109

Manchester – Neil Jones 07774 652426

Edinburgh – Neil Gray 07467 955228




Property Week 07/02/2017

Industry reaction to today’s Housing White Paper, which set out tougher rules for developers and councils in a bid to speed up delivery.

Read the key takeaways from the housing white paper in our summary.

Rapleys Partner Jason Lowes provides comments following the Housing White paper published this week, providing insight in to local councils and authorities and how it will affect them.

To read all the reaction in full from Property week please click here.

Heavily trailed in the media for almost a week, the government’s long-awaited Housing White Paper was published for consultation yesterday. The government hopes that it will fix a “broken” housing market, seen as one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today.

In advance of the Paper’s release, much commentary was made about the continued shift away from the Conservative’s long-standing focus on mass home ownership, and towards recognition of renting as a genuine alternative to buying a house. The mandatory requirement for Starter Homes is not mentioned, and instead there is a policy expectation that housing sites deliver a minimum of 10% affordable home ownership and rented tenures. As predicted, it is proposed that powers relating to Starter Homes have been devolved to local authorities. Given the opposition by many local authorities to the Starter Home initiative, it will be interesting to see how many are actually delivered into the market. There is also now a wage cap for those seeking Starter Homes.

However, many of the other themes are somewhat familiar, with the White Paper seemingly aimed at reforming the current system, rather than overturning it – not least:

  • High density development on brownfield locations in close proximity to transport hubs, and on surplus public sector land.
  • Despite much media coverage, the Green Belt is to be maintained and protected except in “exceptional circumstances”
  • Local plan making is to be tightened up but still used as a tool for enabling development. It should be based on meeting identified housing need, albeit potentially against a single, nationally recognised methodology.

Much of the news lies in the “sticks and carrots” that the White Paper contains in its detail, aimed at both developers and local authorities, including:

  • Consideration of the expansion of existing local authority powers to force developers to complete development, and the reduction of the time period to implement consent from 3 to 2 years.
  • Whether local authorities should be able to take into account a developer’s track record when considering proposals.
  • Raising planning application fees by 20% in June, with further rises possible and the potential for fees for planning appeals.
  • Government intervention where local authorities are unwilling or unable to adopt local plan policies in a timely manner and in circumstances where the NPPF presumption in favour of sustainable development would be automatic if housing delivery falls below prescribed levels.

As the Minister for Housing himself tweeted, there is no silver bullet within the paper but in general terms it seeks to encourage developers to build, and local authorities to let them (and seemingly, in some circumstances, make them!). However, some of the measures being suggested against developers seem a little unrealistic, not least those relating to the completion of development. All in all, the White Paper has set itself a huge task, and many will question whether the measures set out within it are sufficient to do the job.

The Government is welcoming comments until 2 May 2017. If you wish to discuss the contents of the White Paper more, or would like us to help you get your views across, please contact one of our nationwide team.


A planning committee will next week consider whether to grant permission for 48 new flats at Torvean Caravan Park.

Plans for new flats next to the Caledonian Canal on the outskirts of Inverness have been recommended for approval. A planning committee will next week consider whether to grant permission for 48 new
flats at Torvean Caravan Park.

The homes would be built in six blocks, with some overlooking the canal.

Council planners have recommended approval for the scheme saying it will help tackle housing need in the area.

However, Muirtown Community Council have objected claiming the development is over-development and surface water drainage into the canal.

The plans have been submitted by the present owners of the caravan park under the name Caledonian Highview Ltd.

The development would also spread onto a nearby petrol station which has lain disused for several years.

Planning agent Neil Gray of Edinburgh-based consultancy Rapleys has previously said the applicant had been in talks with the council for some time about the project.

He said that the aim is to create “something a bit different” for the area, which is set for substantial new development in the coming years due to the< West Link road, the new Torvean Golf Club and the relocated Highland rugby pitches.

Council planning officer Elaine Watt said: “The proposal will result in development of a ‘windfall’ site and the contribution towards providing additional housing, including 25% affordable, is to be welcomed.

“The former petrol filling station has lain vacant for a number of years and makes little positive contribution to the area, particularly when viewed from the A82. “The importance of this area in making a positive contribution at one of the main gateways to the city is noted and the design and layout has done much to achieve an acceptable and appropriate standard of development.”

On the 10th January, the Scottish Government published a consultation paper in relation to the changes proposed to the Scottish planning system. This is the anticipated ‘White Paper’ often talked about. The findings of this consultation will help the Scottish Government in bringing forward their new Planning Bill in late 2017 or early 2018.

The aim of these proposals is to increase the effectiveness of the planning system by speeding up applications and lowering determination times. It takes the form of 20 proposals for improving the planning system. These in turn are divided into four areas of proposed change.

  • Making plans for the future
  • People make the system work
  • Building more homes and delivering infrastructure
  • Stronger leadership and smarter resourcing

What does this mean for Rapleys’ clients in Scotland?

With a fast growing Scottish population and a lack of desirable sites in cities such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, the focus of the Planning Review is heavily weighted towards delivering residential development. Proposals such as the introduction of regional housing targets set within the National Planning Framework and the introduction of ‘locality plans’ has been raised. The proposal to remove the production of the Main Issues Report stage from Development Planning and improved community planning linkage should lead to a shorter plan preparation stage. We have concerns that the ‘local place plans’ could be seen as duplicating Local Development Plans themselves which might actually have the opposite effect on intentions.

Of further interest to our residential clients is an increased responsibility on local authorities to increase the supply of development ready land and the introduction of a National Infrastructure Agency with statutory powers which could bring a new method by which stakeholders could be brought together. We would question how this is going to be resourced.

The ramifications for commercial and retail development are particularly interesting to Rapleys due to our wide ranging experience in this area across Scotland. Of particular interest is the proposed ‘simplified planning zones’ in town centres and regeneration areas which could speed up key commercial applications such as shops, restaurants or bars.

What happens next?

  • Consultation is open until 4th April 2017 – we will be listening to clients to put forward their views
  • Responses will be published by end of July – there are already initial reactions from the RTPI, RICS and Scottish Property Federation
  • The consultation will help production of a Planning Bill in late 2017/early 2018

Rapleys are experienced in all aspects of residential, commercial, retail and rural diversification and are available to advise our clients as to the implications of the proposals and can assist with making representations to the consultation.


The new Mayor of London has issued his draft ‘Homes for Londoners: Affordable Housing & Viability SPG 2016’ for public consultation. It is the first formal guidance document issued by the new Mayor since his election earlier this year, and represents the first steps towards a new London Plan (which he hopes to have adopted by 2019).

It does not go as far as his manifesto pledges for all new schemes to provide 50% affordable housing, although this figure is retained as a city-wide target. Beyond this, the details of the SPG do not come as a surprise and follow on from the aspirations of the London Borough Development Viability Protocol published earlier this year.

The SPG focuses on affordable housing and viability and includes four distinct parts: background and approach; the threshold approach to viability appraisals; detailed guidance on viability assessments; and a specific approach to Build to Rent schemes. Whilst it is currently just in draft and, even if it is adopted, it cannot introduce new policy, it nevertheless provides relatively detailed guidance for Local Authorities in decision making.
Given that more than half of London boroughs are Labour controlled, one can expect many of them to start referring to it in pre- and post-application discussions in short order. Further, for schemes that are referable to the Mayor, it provides a clear indication of the Greater London Authority’s attitude to any affordable housing offer.

The overarching ambition is to boost the overall supply of new homes by making the planning system clearer, quicker and more consistent, and speed up the process for schemes that deliver higher levels of affordable housing. It outlines a carrot and stick approach in that it will aim to reward those developers who deliver 35% affordable housing or more but makes the viability process and subsequent review mechanisms more onerous for those schemes that propose less than 35%.

The Mayor’s view is that the national Vacant Building Credit (VBC) policy should not apply within London – not surprising, under the circumstances, but it will be interesting to see how this pans out given the Government’s ongoing commitment to VBC.

There is a clear drive for all Financial Viability Assessments (FVA) to be made available to the public. Applicants will have the opportunity to argue that limited elements should be kept undisclosed, but the clear onus is on the applicant to make this case.

The Mayor’s preference for using “Existing Use Value Plus” as the comparable Benchmark Land Value when assessing the viability of a proposed scheme is explicit in the SPG. The premium above Existing Use Value will be considered on a site-by-site basis.

The SPG provides specific guidance on Build to Rent developments, recognising that they differ to the traditional Build for Sale model. There is guidance on the requirements for covenant and clawback arrangements if units are sold out of the Build to Rent sector. It also sets out an alternative pathway which applicants can choose to follow that promotes London Living Rents (or similar discounted Market Rent).

Comments on the draft SPG need to be with the Mayor by 28 February. If you would like to discuss the impact of the draft SPG on your proposals, or would like our help in getting your views across in representations, please contact Nick Fell, Partner and Head of Affordable Housing & Viability, or Jason Lowes, Partner in the Planning Team,

The Chancellor presented the Autumn Statement on  Wednesday 23 November with some announcements impacting the property and development markets. Rapleys wraps up the key points below.

Despite including housing in one of the four key areas to be targeted by the £23bn of spending generated from the NPIF to 2021/22, the Statement failed to deliver a silver bullet for housing delivery. We will await the much anticipated Housing White Paper to deliver the detail.

The focus on investment in traditional and technological infrastructure is, however, welcomed. It is often these areas which act as ‘pinch points’ in themselves for both economic and residential development capacity. The commitment of £2.3bn investment in infrastructure to unlock potential for 100,00 new homes in areas of high demand, can only be welcomed as a fiscal aid to support viability. However, it’s questionable whether the proposed £23,000 per plot is an efficient approach.

Similarly, the support to increase affordable housing delivery is much needed but there was an absence of detail in how this will represent an effective approach in light of the 1m home target over the parliament, which is well short of its objective.

Of potential significance is the commitment to relax restrictions on government grants to allow providers to deliver a wider range of housing, which could translate into a stimulus in starter home delivery and Private Rented Sector accommodation.

However, it is the commitment to the balance of budget and investment, with focus on new infrastructure delivery to provide an environment to support economic and residential growth which will be the headline of the statement for the development industry, alongside the requirement for Local Councils to make tough decisions on the location of development.
Ben Read | 07747 757639


The Chancellor’s announcements in relation to the housing market appear to be shifting away from the previous Chancellor’s almost entire focus on home ownership, to a more balanced housing market. The RICS have reacted positively to the announcements on increased investment for affordable housing, particularly for affordable rent.

Alongside the £2.3bn to be spent on infrastructure, the government also committed to an additional £1.4bn to be spent on affordable housing, which is in addition to the £4.7bn that was previously announced. The money will help fund an additional 40,000affordable homes. The Government has also lifted the restrictions limiting the funding to homeownership products. This is a clear indication of a shift back towards a more balanced housing market to take into account the decline in home ownership and increasing importance of good quality rental stock.
Nick Fell | 07964 558697


Business Rates
For business rates, there were limited announcements from the Chancellor. The most revealing announcement was confirmation that rates bills will go up by a maximum of 43% year on year in 2017/18, and a further 32% the year after for those RVs over £100,000. These were pitched as a saving from 45% and 50% respectively, but these were figures out to consultation only and still represent increases more than 20 times the current rate of inflation—once again leaving businesses short changed.

He confirmed a previously announced scheme offering rate relief to the hard pressed Oil and Gas exploration sector, and a doubling of Rural Rate Relief to 100% from 50%. The announcement that new fibre optic broadband infrastructure will benefit from 100% relief for 5 years will benefit BT Openreach significantly, but very few others.
Alan Watson | 07917 352428


Business Space
The continued focus of the Autumn Statement on the development of housing indicates that the trend of existing office and industrial floorspace and land supply being lost to residential use is set to continue. The consequence will be growth in office and industrial land prices and a strong growth in rents.
Colin Steele | 07860 749034


The key impact to the Scottish market will come via the City Deal funding announcement which will bring economic growth and development to infrastructure and strategic projects. A City Deal agreement for Edinburgh is confirmed, proposals from Perth and Dundee are being considered and talks will begin shortly on Stirling.

The Chancellor stating that every city in Scotland will be on course for a City Deal gives local areas greater powers and freedoms to help support economic growth, create jobs or invest in local projects.
Neil Gray | 07467 955228


Property Management
The Chancellor stated that insurance premium tax (standard rate) will increase from 10% to 12% which will see this type of tax doubling within 2 years. This will lead to additional expenditure on buildings insurance and we expect those with large property portfolios to be significantly hit.

The announced increase in the national living wage to £7.50 from April 2017 will also cause an impact to property management costs as it is highly likely that we will see contractors (receptionist, security, landscaping providers etc) passing this cost onto their customers meaning landlords and tenants should prepare themselves for increased service charge budgets and expenditure.

However, the Carbon Price Support will be capped to 2020 which should reduce the increase seen on energy bills for end consumers, helping reduce the expenditure seen on utilities.
Mark Coles | 07785 522956

Please contact a member of the team if you would like more information on the Autumn Statement and the impact it may have on your property or portfolio.

Central government recently published the Neighbourhood Planning Bill (The Bill) and a public consultation document entitled “Improving the use of planning conditions.”

A principal aim of the government is to speed up housing delivery. The imposition of a large number of pre-commencement conditions on planning permissions serves to slow delivery following the grant of permission. It is their view that the regime is “overly restrictive and unnecessary”.

An extensive list of pre-commencement conditions not only runs the risk of delay and additional costs to developers, but also creates resourcing issues for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) who are tasked with reviewing the information submitted to discharge the condition.

The latest proposal follows on from the deemed discharge of planning conditions which came into effect on 15 April 2015. This sought to address unnecessary delays in approving condition details and the new proposal goes a step further in avoiding their imposition in the first instance.

The government proposal

The government proposes to prohibit the use of pre-commencement conditions unless the applicant has agreed to them in writing beforehand. The aim is to ensure that pre-commencement conditions are only used when necessary, so that development can commence without delay, while retaining the ability of the LPA to impose conditions that are required to achieve sustainable development. This will provide the applicant with an earlier opportunity to challenge any pre-commencement conditions that may be unnecessary, such as conditions that could be discharged at a later stage of development.

The approach will not apply to outline permissions.

The Bill also gives the Secretary of State the power to prescribe the circumstances in which certain conditions may, or may not, be imposed.

The principal difference between this and the tests set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is that developers will have the opportunity to confront any pre-commencement conditions they feel are unjustified at an early stage.

Applicant/LPA agreement

Whilst in most cases, it is likely that the applicant and LPA will reach an agreement on what pre-commencement conditions should be imposed, if the applicant does not agree to a certain pre-commencement condition, the LPA would have the option to alter the condition in question, allow the developer to comply with the condition after the development is underway or remove the condition altogether. However, the LPA will still have the right to refuse the application if it considers a pre-commencement condition is necessary to make the development acceptable, as it does currently.

If this is the case, the developer would have the option to appeal the condition and the LPA would be expected to justify the condition and why it is needed at pre-commencement stage.

Agreement of conditions

Before giving their written agreement to conditions, developers should ask themselves a number of questions:

  • Is there scope for negotiation of the conditions?
  • Does the LPA want an appeal?
  • Will the conditions cause concern to funders or other third parties?
  • Is there an opportunity to amend the conditions at a later date by submitting a non-material or minor material amendment application?


The Consultation seeks comments on the proposed process to prohibit pre-commencement conditions from being imposed where the LPA does not have the written agreement of the applicant. The paper also seeks views on whether it would be necessary to make provision for a default period, after which an applicant’s written agreement would be deemed to have been given, if no response has been received. This would allow the LPA to proceed to impose the pre-commencement condition if no response has been received from the applicant within a given period.

The Secretary of State will have the power to prohibit certain conditions in defined circumstances. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State may only make such regulations if he is satisfied that the conditions are necessary, relevant, sufficiently precise and reasonable, that is to say that the conditions satisfy the existing policy requirements on planning conditions.

Although the proposals are to be cautiously welcomed, there is some reservation about whether the examples given in the paper are being enforced by LPA’s, and therefore that new regulations would make any real difference in the challenge to boost housing delivery.

Whilst it is an admirable attempt by the government to speed up the planning process there is some uncertainty as to how effective these changes will be. When put into practice, previous attempts to speed up the planning process have shown that despite the best intentions, the process is not usually sped up in any significant way and delays are still apparent. There is also some caution that more complex planning applications may be refused where they should otherwise be granted, or negotiations over the imposition of conditions and details to satisfy the LPA are simply shifted to before determination.

Consultation ends at 12pm on Wednesday 2 November and it will be interesting to see the response.

If you have any questions about the above, wish to submit representations or would like to discuss any other planning matter, please contact a member of our nationwide team.


Rapleys is delighted to announce that it has appointed Ben Read as a Partner based in its Bristol office.

Ben joins the practice’s nationwide planning department and will be promoting a range of planning applications for developers, land owners and occupiers. Prior to joining Rapleys Ben was with Hunter Page.

Senior partner Robert Clarke at Rapleys commented: “I am pleased to welcome Ben to the partnership. He brings a wealth of experience in managing, and promoting, residential and commercial schemes through the planning system. He will, undoubtedly, foster and contribute to our ever growing planning business (both nationally and in the south west market).”

Ben Read commented: “I am delighted to have joined Rapleys and am looking forward to contributing to a nationally recognised planning team in what is an exciting period of growth for the business.”


We are also pleased to welcome the following new starters to Rapleys:

Pankaj Vara as an associate in the viability/affordable housing team based in the London office.

Andrew Priestley as a surveyor in our development consultancy team based in the London office

Alexandra Weatherilt as a surveyor in the automotive and roadside team based in the Manchester office.

Simon Burrage as a surveyor in the building consultancy team based in the London office.

Matthew Nicoll as an associate in the property management team based in Huntingdon.

Rapleys’ Scottish town planning experts give their views on the outcome of the Scottish Planning Review.

In September 2015, an independent panel was appointed by Scottish ministers to review the Scottish planning system. The panel was asked to look at ways to achieve a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process. The review focused on six key themes – development planning; housing delivery; planning for infrastructure; development management; leadership, resourcing and skills; and community engagement.

The review panel provided 48 ‘recommendations’ which they feel might achieve a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process. In summary, the key recommendations identified in the report propose:

  • Giving more focus to the National Planning Framework (NPF), including regional housing targets;
  • Simplifying the development plan review process;
  • Empowering communities with the introduction of “Locality Plans”;
  • Encouraging Simplified Planning Zones (SPZ) within town and regeneration areas;
  • Establishing a national infrastructure agency;
  • Streamlining complex planning controls.

By recommending a simpler approach in preparing development plans, the onus will shift onto making sure the NPF is more focussed. Removing the main issues report stage and making improved links with community planning will result in a shorter two year plan preparation process. Not a bad outcome. With strategic development plan authorities re-purposed to focus on co-ordination and delivery, this might redress the balance. Another big change would be the proposed 10 year development plan cycle, which, the report states, could have flexibility in parts; to be updated to react to circumstances, such as economic change. We think this is a fairly mixed bag of proposals.

We think the biggest eyebrow raiser is the idea for regional housing targets, set within the NPF. The possibility of empowering communities to bring forward their own “locality plans” might result in over-consultation locally. Resources will need to be in place to referee the new procedure.

A key “game changer” within the report includes the expansion of simplified planning zones to allow use on a wider scale, such as in town centre or regeneration areas. A fillip for our town centres. We also like the proposal suggesting allocated sites be afforded planning permission in principle and/or benefit from exemptions from pre-application consultation requirements and fast-tracked appeals. That might speed things up.

Proposals to streamline and minimise the use of planning obligations could help speed up delivery of development; as from Rapleys’ practical experience, we are aware how this can result in significant delays and affect commercial decisions for clients. We think a very interesting recommendation within the report is the proposal for a national infrastructure agency which would have statutory powers and potentially could be a positive way to bring key stakeholders together.

The Scottish Government is now considering the recommendations put forward by the panel and will publish its response “in due course.”

Rapleys can help by examining what the review proposals means for you. For our retail and town centre clients we can advise on the implications of simplified planning zones; for our residential clients we can comment on the effect of moving to a 10 year planning horizon and for all other clients we can suggest ways of challenging some of these ideas as they proceed to scrutiny during 2016-17.

Please contact the above for further information or advice regarding this update.

To view this as a PDF please click the link adjacent.

As part of Rapleys’ continued investment in the development of employees we are pleased to announce the latest promotions:

  • Alun Jones (Development, London) to Equity Partner
  • Graham Smith (Charities Consultancy, London) to Non-Equity Partner
  • Jennifer Lemen-Hogarth (Lease Consultancy, Bristol) to Senior Associate
  • Jemma Cam (Town Planning, Bristol) to Associate
  • Gary Collins (Town Planning, London) to Associate
  • Jessica Lockwood (A&R/Development, Huntingdon/London) to Senior Surveyor

“The promotions reflect their contributions to the business and are thoroughly deserved. I would like to thank them for all their hard work and support in the continuing growth and success of the practice.” Rapleys Senior partner, Robert Clarke.

More permitted development on the way

Further changes to permitted development will come into force on 6 April, the most important being:

Office to residential
As previously announced, the right to change the use of most office space to residential without planning permission is to become permanent. It will continue to be subject to a prior approval procedure, albeit this will be extended to consider the impact of noise on new residents.

Current non-geographic exceptions will remain in perpetuity, but geographic exceptions (including Central London and Manchester city centre) will expire in May 2019, although one can expect many of the local authorities affected to promote Article 4 directions to retail the restrictions beyond this.

Interestingly, there is no mention at present about the idea mooted last autumn of extending permitted development to include demolition and redevelopment of office buildings for housing. This was quite a radical proposal, raising many questions about how it might be implemented – the government may feel that it needs more time to consider this.

Light industrial to residential
A new three-year temporary permitted development right for changes of use from light industrial to residential will come into force on 1 October 2017. Beyond its temporary nature, there are a number of other restrictions imposed, including:

  • A floorspace limit of buildings less than 500sqm;
  • Evidence will be required that the building was used solely for light industrial purposes on 19 March 2014 (or, if the light industrial use was established but the building was vacant in March 2014, the date the building was last in that use would be relevant), and
  • Whether the site is identified as being particularly sensitive (for example, listed buildings, scheduled monuments or in a site of special scientific interest).
  • Prior approval will be required relative to flood risk, contamination and transportation considerations. In addition, the prior approval process will include consideration of the impact of the change of use on surrounding light industrial operations, where these are deemed to be “important”. Prior approval must be granted before 1 October 2020, and development must be completed within three years of the prior approval date

Office to residential conversions have proved popular with developers – according to government figures, almost 4,000 conversions were approved between April 2014 and June last year and no doubt the extension of this right in perpetuity will also be welcomed. However, the change of use from light industrial floorspace may not prove as popular, given the restrictions improved (not least on floorspace), and the level of additional work that might be required to render sites fit for habitation. Further, it will also be interesting to see how local authorities will define areas that are considered “important” for light industrial use – from past experience, some local authorities may take a very broad view.

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The Scottish Government has issued Draft Planning Delivery Advice on “Housing and Infrastructure”. This has come as a result of the “root and branch” review of Scottish planning. The Government has commissioned a separate study on housing and infrastructure to tackle one of the practical issues of the current shortage of housing.

The draft advice is concerned with improving housing and infrastructure delivery primarily through the development plan process, but it will also be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications and appeals. Once finalised, it will replace Planning Advice Note (PAN) 2/2010.

Developers have found delivery of housebuilding in Scotland has become increasingly challenging in recent years. There has been a reduction in completion rates and shortage of deliverable sites coming forward. This guidance seeks to improve the way in which this is handled.

The document sets out that there should be a lesser focus on numbers of houses planned. Instead a stronger emphasis be given to delivery of houses, providing levels of what is required to meet current demand, but also to prepare for the future in places which can successfully evolve and grow over time. The advice addresses the issue of effectiveness (i.e. how a planned site performs) and in doing so identifies a number of criteria against which the effectiveness of a proposed housing site will be assessed. The most notable change is the removal of marketability as one of the effectiveness criteria. Is this an admission that previously identified sites were not attractive for housebuilders and buyers?
In terms of Infrastructure, emphasis is given to partnership working, with a focus on working with stakeholders and agencies in “Delivery Groups”. The advice states that the costing of infrastructure developments should be explored as early as possible to ensure that the correct funding is in place to achieve delivery. The advice suggests this can be done, in a number of traditional methods, for example, Planning Agreement, Developer Contribution, Scale or Kind, but also new approaches such as Cumulative Contributions, thought to be particularly useful for strategic projects.

We consider this a welcome approach given that the most attractive sites currently appear to be smaller but more deliverable.

Rapleys is working with a number of landowners, housebuilders, and housing providers in Scotland and we look forward to putting our practical experience to use on these projects when the new guidance is adopted.

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Hot on the heels of the consultation on changes to the NPPF, the Government reforms of the planning system continue. Specifically, two further consultations were launched late last week on initiatives to speed up the planning system and bring forward new housing. Comments are being accepted on both consultations until the 15 April 2016.

Nationwide changes to simplify and speed up the system
Under the seemingly innocuous title of “Technical Consultation on Implementation of Planning Changes” the Government is seeking views on some potentially radical proposals, not least “fast-tracking” and introducing competition to the processing of planning applications (although decision-making will stay with local councils). Other matters include:

  • Further proposed details for the procedures for “permission in principle” (PiP) and subsequent “technical details consent” (TDC). This includes an indication of the matters to be addressed by each process – location, use and amount of residential development will be addressed at PiP stage, with matters such as design and infrastructure at TDC stage. Additional detail includes proposals relative to timescales and the scope of information required to make applications.
  • Additional detail relative to “brownfield registers”, which local authorities will need to prepare and should include all brownfield land except land that has no realistic prospect of being used for housing.
  • Options to raise planning application fees, but linked to performance.
  • More detailed proposals on the circumstances under which the Government would intervene in the local plan process.

The consultation document is wide-ranging and begins to add much-needed detail to the operation of the Housing and Planning Bill. Nevertheless, gaps remain on how the Government’s flagship planning legislation will be implemented and everyone involved in the planning system (and particularly local authorities) will be looking at future detail with a magnifying glass.

Building upwards in London
In the interests of reducing the take up of green belt land for housing, the Government and Greater London Authority want to make it easier to add height to existing buildings in London, suggesting the following options:

  1. Permitted development, under a prior approval procedure, for additional storeys up to the height of an adjoining roofline but there will be limits and exceptions, and neighbours will still need to be consulted;
  2. Local development orders, in specific areas to be defined;
  3. A new policy in the London Plan to support additional storeys, where a site specific planning permission application is still required.

Although the proposals are to be welcomed, it is arguable how much of a change this measure represents, given the levels of identified housing need in the capital.

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