Planning circular 3/2022: development management procedures
Circular 3/2022 provides guidance on the procedures governing applications for planning permission. It supersedes circular 3/2013.
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Duration of Planning Permission
1. Planning authorities will wish to give careful consideration as to the appropriate duration of a planning permission, and, in the case of planning permission in principle in particular, to the matter of time limits for making applications for approval of matters specified in conditions. The latter will be the case especially where the permission relates to development intended to take place in phases over a number of years. Examples might include large housing schemes, plot-by-plot housing schemes, business parks, or other similar development where the details of later phases are not yet known.
2. All parties should seek to avoid a scenario where it only subsequently becomes clear, after permission has been granted, that the timetable for making applications for approval of details and/or implementing the development is unrealistic.
3. In all cases, authorities will wish to allow reasonable flexibility for developers, whilst seeking to minimise uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the permission.
4. Paragraphs 4.106 to 4.117 outline the relevant provisions which govern the duration of planning permission and the duration of planning permission in principle. In summary, where planning permission is granted it must be subject to a condition that development is to commence within a specified period, or the permission will lapse. In the case of full planning permission the default period is 3 years unless the planning authority specifies a different period when granting planning permission. For planning permission in principle, the equivalent default time period for commencing the development is 5 years. Again the planning authority can when granting planning permission in principle specify a different time period.
5. Amongst other things, to be a planning permission in principle a permission must be subject to one or more conditions that the relevant development cannot be commenced until certain matters have been approved. Paragraphs 3.13 to 3.17 outline the relevant procedures for seeking approval of such matters. There is no statutory time period within which applications for approval of matters specified in conditions must be applied for. However, Section 41(1)(c) provides that a planning authority may attach conditions to the grant of planning permission which relate to the timing of:
- applications for consent, agreement or approval; or
- carrying out other actions connected with the permission or development.
6. Under these provisions, planning authorities can impose conditions as to the timing of applications for approval of matters specified in conditions, and to set specific timings for different phases of the development. Section 41(1)(c) is applicable to all approvals required by conditions, not just those attached to planning permission in principle, that must be approved before the development, or a specified element of the development, can begin.
Setting an appropriate duration
7. As outlined, conditions specifying a longer or shorter duration than the default three or five year periods may be imposed on the grant of planning permission or planning permission in principle, under sections 58(1)(b) and 59(2A)(b) respectively. Section 58(3A) and section 59(2D) provide that such an alternative time period is one which:
a) begins on the date the planning permission is granted; and
b) the relevant planning authority considers appropriate, having regard to the development plan and any other material considerations.
8. Whether an alternative time period is appropriate will depend on the particular circumstances of the proposed development. Relevant considerations might include:
- The scale and complexity of the proposed development;
- Any information about the anticipated phasing of the proposed development provided with the application;
- The anticipated timing of infrastructure or other works required to enable the proposed development; and
- Prevailing economic conditions, including any impacts these might have on relevant supply chains
9. Planning authorities should discuss the matter with the applicant where a longer or shorter duration than the default time period is being considered.
10. A Section 42 application (See Annex H) can be used to apply for a new planning permission for the same development, but with different conditions – including in respect of duration. Even where such an application does not relate specifically to conditions on duration or time periods for subsequent approvals or actions, the planning authority and the applicant will nevertheless want to give consideration as to whether conditions in these regards need to be amended due, for example, to the passage of time since the earlier permission was granted.
Timescales for seeking approvals
11. As outlined in paragraphs 5 and 6 of this Annex, Section 41(1)(c) recognises, and provides for, the principle of phased development and enables the planning authority to specify specific timescales for the approval and implementation of different parts of the permission.
12. The planning authority should discuss with applicants appropriate time periods in these regards. It is open to applicants to provide information with their planning application that would assist such consideration.
13. As indicated above, such engagement can avoid problems later. Careful consideration of timetables at the point of granting permission can avoid applicants having to prepare (and authorities having to determine) section 42 applications at a later date. Doing so can also help to provide greater certainty for third parties.
14. If the intention is that a development is to be implemented in phases, or that approvals for parts of a development are to be submitted in phases, the conditions themselves need to be framed to recognise this.
15. Attention is drawn to the requirements for notices of completion of development with regard to phases of development – see paragraphs 5.7 and 5.8 of the main circular.
16. Planning authorities and applicants will wish to give consideration to the wording of individual conditions, and in particular will wish to ensure clarity as to:
- Where a further approval is required, whether this is necessary before the development as a whole can begin, or before part of the development can begin.
- Whether the matters to be approved concern the development as a whole, or whether they relate only to particular phases. For example, where a condition requires the approval of the planning authority on the 'siting, design, and external appearance of all buildings,' whether this relates to all buildings across the development as a whole, or only in relation to a particular phase of development.
- Authorities may wish to consider using an advisory note to clearly set out the timetable for making applications for approvals as specified in the conditions.
- Authorities are reminded of the need to ensure that all conditions imposed meet the tests set out in Circular 4/1998 on the Use of Conditions in Planning Permissions.
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