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The Infrastructure Bill – What it means locally……….

June 23, 2014 by  

As we posted a shared link to the Infrastructure Bill on Facebook we felt that we should look into this new legislation further particularly as it did not feature in recent compulsory Member Training from Rochford District Council on Planning. (We had a repeat subject session on The Duty to C0-operate and the Community Infrastructure Levy.)

The Infrastructure Bill covers various areas including planning, housing, fracking, reforms to the Highways Agency and some worrying changes to the Land Registry.

The Headlines in the link were “The Government plans to order local authorities to make 90 per cent of its brownfield sites (a designation that apparently includes parks, allotments, gardens as well as former industrial sites) available to be transferred to the Government quango the Homes and Communities Agency, which was established in 2008. The HCA can then pass it on to developers without any of tiresome planning restrictions.”

But as local Members delving further there is even more of concern in the detail.

We oppose the proposals for deemed discharge of planning conditions.

Why?

Deemed discharge of planning conditions is treating planning conditions as approved where a planning authority has failed to discharge a planning condition on time and has held up a development. Joint working between councils and developers is the most effective way of dealing with any concerns about planning conditions.

Currently we seem to have a confusion with The Environment Agency about where a new surface water drainage ditch is to be located. As local Members trying to head off this worrying situation we have supplied The Environment Agency with documents indisputably referring to the eastern boundary in the planning permission condition. If it were a deemed discharge then could the surface water drainage ditch be put in the wrong place? Potential flooding affects all of us and surely great care needs to be taken by all concerned, not only in this respect but in many other aspects of development that affect the local community!

Clause 23 of the Bill, which transfers the responsibility for local land charges to Land Registry, should be deleted from the Bill. The land charges service to businesses and residents can be improved locally, instead of going through a national transformation that is likely to have a negative impact on the system.

The proposal will separate Local Land Charge searches from additional land searches (known as CON29 searches) which local authorities will continue to provide. Councils will still need to employ people to collate information locally to supply data to the Land Registry, but will lose the income they now have as the Land Charges Fees which will be nationalised. This means that there will not only be cost implications for transforming the service into a national one, but more importantly costs to councils in managing data co-ordination and inquiries locally. Therefore the proposals risk stripping our Councils of income, while leaving our Council with many of the current costs making an increase to Council Tax.

Allowing councils to set out permitted development rights locally.

New national rules were introduced in 2013 by the Government here.

Extensions more or less got carte blanch to the potential detriment of the locality.

But under the New Infrastructure Act Local permitted development rights would give councils the powers to improve their locality and attract investment whilst tackling local issues such as clustering of, charity, coffee and fast food shops. As this issue continuously arises with objections from residents to planning applications and there is little currently that Councillors can do about it this change will be welcomed and we look forward to receiving the appropriate training from RDC so that Members are appropriately briefed when it comes to making a decision on our new local framework.

However the concern over Clause 23 is a real one and we would urge you to write to your MP if you share our concerns.

It will be too late once the Bill is receives the final Royal Assent.

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