Business expert: A planning and development outlook for 2019
19th March 2019
After an eventful 2018 for local developers, here are a few of my planning related predictions and expectations for 2019:
First, expect changes to permitted development rights, which will hopefully make it easier for developers to fill some of the empty retail units around Gloucestershire. The amendments, which follow another difficult year for high streets nationally, will potentially allow for greater flexibility to change between different commercial, leisure and community uses. Also, the existing rights which allow for more limited flexible commercial changes of use for up to two years, may be extended to three years, which would allow businesses more time to become established before applying for a permanent change.
The government consultation recently closed, so we've yet to see exactly how the legislation will look, but making it easier to re-use vacant units will surely have a positive effect on town centres.
Regeneration work in Gloucester will start to pick up pace in 2019. After pre-commencement conditions have been complied with, work is likely to start on the upgrades to King's Walk Gloucester, following the decision to grant planning permission in December. The application for neighbouring King's Quarter may also come forward this year, after Gloucester City Council issued a scoping opinion (a document relating to the content of an Environmental Statement) in December.
Related to this, there's the looming Brexit deadline of 29th March 2019. The long-term impacts of the decision to leave the EU are still unknown. Planning itself is not an EU competency but environmental matters are; so, the need for environmental impact or habitats regulations assessments to accompany applications for development originated in EU Directives. I'm not expecting to see any changes to the existing system in 2019, but over a longer period of time we might see amendments to the application requirements for larger or more sensitive developments.
Following the introduction of the housing delivery test last year, authorities will be under more pressure to ensure they have a five-year supply of deliverable housing, and already a couple of Gloucestershire authorities are struggling. This will impact on their planning decisions, as national policy will in many cases require them to approve applications unless the adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.
Cheltenham's local plan examination commences on 13th February, with the inspector's recommendations to follow later this year. Tewkesbury borough may also submit its local plan for examination later in 2019.
Finally, several Gloucestershire authorities have only recently adopted the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), but the government is currently consulting on some changes which might influence how developers are charged. This year we are likely to see the introduction of a more proportionate penalty for failing to serve a timely commencement notice (at present the full CIL amount is payable immediately and all exemptions are lost if a developer fails to serve the notice prior to starting work). We can also expect changes to the way CIL is calculated for applications to vary or remove a condition.
In short, a generally positive outlook for 2019 (the unknown of Brexit aside) and, as the year progresses, I'm hopeful that, for some developments at least, local businesses and developers will be presented with fewer procedural and financial barriers.
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