The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, affectionately known as LURA, received Royal Assent at the end of October.
It covers a vast array of matters but, in relation to planning, its purpose is to speed up the planning system, hold developers to account, cut bureaucracy, and encourage more councils to put plans in place to facilitate the building of new homes. According to the press release, LURA ‘will ensure new development is built more beautifully, produces more local infrastructure, like GP surgeries, schools and transport links, is shaped by local people’s democratic wishes, enhances the environment, and creates neighbourhoods where people want to live and work.’
What is the immediate impact of LURA?
There is no real immediate effect on the planning system, but, looking forward, we are likely to see significant change. Whilst some planning elements will come into force on 26 December, the majority will be brought in by regulations for which no timeframe has been specified.
What comes in on 26 December?
Various provisions of Part 3 (Planning) come into force on 26 December, but even those largely require regulation to implement.
- Street votes were the subject of much controversy during the Bill’s passage through Parliament, and sections 106-108 cover these. However, only section 108, which enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to modify the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 to take street votes into account, will come into force on 26 December.
- Section 109, in relation to Crown development, also comes in on 26 December, and extends the existing position, allowing the Secretary of State to issue a development order for schemes which are of national importance and required as a matter of urgency.
- Section 112 introduces a new section 93H to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA), and gives a local planning authority (LPA) the ability to serve a completion notice where development has been lawfully commenced. The LPA will be able to serve notice stating that planning permission will cease if the LPA is of the opinion that it will not be completed within a reasonable period. The form of notice has not yet been prescribed.
- Section 113 creates new section 70D of the TCPA, giving an LPA a power to decline to determine applications for certain types of development where the development has not been implemented. It is intended as a sanction against developers who are unreasonably slow in progressing developments. Neither the type of development, nor the type of person to whom it will apply, have yet been prescribed.
- Section 114 adds section 90B to the TCPA. This introduces a condition requiring development progress reports, some of the detail in respect of which still needs to be prescribed by the Secretary of State.
- Relief from enforcement of planning conditions – under section 196E of the TCPA, introduced by section 121, the Secretary of State can make regulations to prevent an
LPA from taking enforcement measures for non-compliance with conditions in relation to national defence, civil emergency, or significant disruption to the UK economy or any part of the UK.
- Sections 126-128 relate to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), and provide that the Secretary of State may make regulations for and in connection with the charging of fees, including in relation to consultation responses, on development consent order (DCO) applications. The Secretary of State is also given the power to shorten deadlines for examining and reporting on DCO applications, and the power to make regulations in relation to non-material amendments to DCOs.
- Sections 130-133 also come into force on 26 December. Perhaps the most notable element is the broad power, introduced by section 132, for the Secretary of State to make regulations to effect amendments to, or modify, a variety of statutes (including some for compulsory purchase).
- Development affecting ancient woodland is covered in section 136, which provides that, by 26 January 2024, the Secretary of State must vary Town and Country Planning (Consultation)(England) Direction 2021 to include applications for planning permission affecting ancient woodland.
In addition to elements of Part 3, Boxing Day will see the following come into force:
- Part 6 (Environmental Outcomes Reports) - although as this will require extensive regulation to implement it, the impact will not be immediate.
- Part 7 (Nutrient Pollution Standards), which provides that, by 2030, sewerage undertakers must upgrade certain parts of the sewerage system to ensure compliance with nitrate and phosphate standards. There is power for the Secretary of State to designate habitats sites as unfavourable in respect of nitrates and phosphates. There are some exemptions, for example plant that serves fewer than 250 people.
What will follow?
There is no fixed date for the entry into force of some of the most publicised elements of LURA. Examples include:
- Enforcement of planning controls - the introduction of a ten year rule for all enforcement in England (the time limit remains at four years in Wales), and an amendment to the duration of temporary stop notices in England from 28 days to 56 days (again, the position remains unchanged, at 28 days, in Wales).
- Part 4 - Infrastructure Levy and Community Infrastructure Levy
- Part 9 – Compulsory Purchase
Katherine Evans said “the LURA 2023 is more an indication of what might be next in planning rather than what will be next. With a general election likely in the next 12 months, unless the current government considers any of the provisions as great vote winners, the extent of additional material required to implement the vast majority of this new statute means that it is quite unlikely that these provisions will come into force in the short or even medium term. Many practitioners will be secretly hoping that some never see the light of day.”
We are tracking developments and will provide updates as and when regulations are issued.
TLT has extensive experience in advising on planning issues. If you would like to discuss your requirements, please get in touch.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at December 2023. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.