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Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

I am today publishing a consultation document entitled “Greater Flexibility for Planning Permissions”, which sets out proposals to provide greater flexibility for local authorities, to give developers more support and scope to keep investment and activity ongoing during the economic downturn. This paper outlines a number of measures which do not require primary legislation. I intend to implement them rapidly, mainly in the autumn.

The consultation paper has three elements:

Extension of the time limits for implementation of existing planning permissions—We propose to give local authorities the discretion to extend the time limits for commencement of major developments. This will allow extension of the typical three-year time limit for a further period, which in most cases would be another three years. We intend this as a temporary measure, which will apply to all permissions for major developments which are extant at the time it comes into force. The measure will therefore be in operation for approximately three years, depending on the length of time which each individual permission has left to run.

Minor material amendments to planning permissions—At present, when a developer wants to make a small, but material, change to a scheme that already has planning permission, it is often necessary to submit a further full planning application, which leads to considerable delay, cost and uncertainty for the applicant and additional work for the local planning authority. The consultation document seeks views on varying conditions to make the process more streamlined and also seeks initial views on more substantive changes which would require primary legislation. This element of the consultation document responds to a recommendation in the Killian Pretty review of planning applications.

Non-material amendments to planning permissions—The final part of the consultation document proposes changes to secondary legislation necessary to bring into effect a measure in the Planning Act 2008 which provides a simple and quick mechanism for making non-material amendments to planning permissions. Developers will not need to make a full planning application, but can instead apply simply to change one particular aspect of the permission.

We also want to encourage the use of Local Development Orders. I can confirm that next week we will commence a provision from the Planning Act 2008 that will allow an LDO to be set up independent of the local development plan, and I am also removing the requirement for local authorities to obtain approval of an LDO from the Secretary of State.

I am also announcing today the availability of small- scale start-up funding for a first wave of at least 12 LDOs. The Planning Advisory Service is working with the Department considering applications, and I can report that we have now offered support to the first two LDO schemes.

Amendments to the Building Regulations

I am today also publishing a consultation on changes to Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) and Part F (Ventilation) to deliver the next step towards zero carbon buildings—a 25 per cent. improvement on current standards for homes and other buildings from October 2010.

The proposals in the consultation could deliver savings of 3.3 million tonnes of carbon per year in 2020.

The proposed changes mean that homes would have to be built with a suitable combination of better insulation and draught-proofing, better low-energy lighting and more efficient boilers. By requiring higher levels of energy efficiency in new homes residents will benefit from lower fuel bills—up to £100 lower per year than for homes built to the current standard.

In the consultation, we are also seeking views on whether we should require energy efficiency standards for conservatories. We know that conservatories are a relatively cost-effective way of increasing the living space of a home. However, they can significantly increase carbon emissions—a 20m2 conservatory with poor energy efficiency standards added to a house built since 2002 and heated to the same temperature as that house would approximately double its carbon emissions. So we are asking whether we should expect people to spend an estimated additional £400 on a £10,000 new conservatory to improve its energy efficiency.

Later, we will be consulting more fully on how to take forward the ambition from the March 2008 Budget that all new non-domestic buildings should be zero carbon from 2019. In the meantime, as we said in the zero carbon consultation in December 2008, it is important to take early steps to start to further improve the energy performance of non-domestic buildings. So, today’s Part L consultation also sets outs proposals for a 25 per cent. improvement on current standards for new non-domestic buildings from October 2010.

Finally, the consultation sets out proposals to tighten the standards for some standard building systems and components, like boilers and windows, which make a significant difference to carbon emissions from new buildings and when these items are replaced in existing homes.

The consultation will close on 17 September 2009 and any changes to the regulations are due to be made by March 2010 to come into effect from October 2010.

Copies of the consultation documents will be placed in the Library of the House.