Town and country planning in the United Kingdom
- See Development control in the United Kingdom for an explanation of how planning control is exercised in the UK.
Town and country planning in the United Kingdom is the land use planning system governments use to balance economic development and environmental quality. Each country of the United Kingdom has its own planning system that is responsible for town and country planning devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.
Current planning legislation for England and Wales is consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990). Three further planning-related acts are associated with this principal Act. These four acts are defined as the Planning Acts. Parts of these Acts have been replaced or amended by the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which received Royal Assent on 13 May 2004. The basic planning law of Northern Ireland is contained in the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, while the relevant Acts for Scotland are the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 and the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006.
The roots of the UK town and country planning system as it emerged in the immediate post-war years lay in concerns developed over the previous half century in response to industrialisation and urbanisation. The particular concerns were pollution, urban sprawl, and ribbon development. These concerns were expressed through the work of thinkers such as Ebenezer Howard and the philanthropic actions of industrialists such as the Lever Brothers and the Cadbury family, and architects such as Raymond Unwin, PRIBA, and Patrick Abercrombie. The Housing and Town Planning Act 1909, the Housing and Town Planning Act 1919, the Town Planning Act 1925 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1932 were initial moves toward modern legislation.
By the outbreak of Second World War, thinking was sufficiently advanced that, even during the war, a series of Royal commissions looked at the problems of urban planning and development control. These included:
- The Barlow Commission (1940) into the distribution of industrial population
- The Scott Committee into rural land use (1941)
- The Uthwatt Committee into compensation and betterment (1942)
- The Reith Report into New Towns (1947)
Also, Patrick Abercrombie developed the Greater London Plan for the reconstruction of London, which envisaged moving 1.5 million people from London to new and expanded towns. These intellectual efforts resulted in the New Towns Act 1946 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1947.
The 1947 Act, in effect, nationalised the right to develop land. It required all proposals, with a few exclusions, to secure planning permission from the local authority, with provision to appeal against refusal. It introduced a development charge to capture the planning gain which arises when permission to develop land is granted. This was abolished by the 1954 Town and Country Planning Act passed under subsequent Conservative government. Green belts were added in 1955 via a government circular.
The 1947 Act introduced a requirement, which still exists, on local authorities to develop Local Plans or Unitary Development Plans to outline what kind of development is permitted where, and to mark special areas on Local Plan Maps. It did not introduce a formal system of zoning as used in the United States. Counties developed Structure Plans that set broad targets for the wider area. Structure Plans were always problematic and were often in the process of being replaced by the time they were formally adopted.
The planning system underwent a number of alterations, which were consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990). Section 106 substantially re-wrote Section 52 from the former Act, settling the concept of agreements (known as "planning obligation agreements," or more commonly "Section 106 agreements"), under which the developer is subject to detailed arrangements and restrictions beyond those that a planning condition could impose, or by which he makes agreed financial contributions beyond the immediate building works to offset development effects on the local community. This was soon amended to allow a developer to self-impose obligations to preempt objections to planning permission. This prevents the planning authority from blocking a permission by merely failing to negotiate.
Three further Acts related to planning are associated with this primary act: The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990, and the Planning (Consequential Provisions) Act 1990. These four Acts are referred to as the Planning Acts. Almost immediately after parliament passed these Acts, the government had further thoughts on the control of land development, which led to the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, which made important alterations to many of the Planning Acts provisions.
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 made substantial changes to the English Development Plan system. It did away with both Structure Plans and Local Plans, in favour of Local Development Frameworks (LDFs), which are made up a number of Local Development Documents (LDDs) and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs). The Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which is produced by Regional Assemblies in England, replaces the Structure Plan as the strategic planning document (i.e., the RSS that's targets for housing and employment development within each district in a Region in the future). A variation on this approach exists in Wales.
Local Authorities are also now required to produce Local Development Schemes (LDS) - which outline the work the LDDs/SPDs they intend to produce over a three-year period, and Statements of Community Involvement (SCI), which outline how the Council will involve the local community. All LDDs and SPDs also have to be accompanied by a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The SEA is a requirement under European Union laws. Planning Policy Guidance Notes are also being gradually replaced by Planning Policy Statements.
Minor variations were allowed to planning permissions, recognising that information provided for planning permission does not provide enough detail for actual construction. Working drawings are required first, and architects often make small changes to accommodate a building's technical requirements. Also, plans might change on site to overcome unforeseen problems. Legality of minor amendments was challenged in 2006, and the advice to many local authorities is that any variation to a planning permission should require planning approval.
Historically, planning applications were submitted in paper form to designated Council offices and displayed for a statutory period at public libraries or offices. In December 1995, the London Borough of Wandsworth created a website that published electronic images of planning application documents. This technology greatly improved access to application-related documents for all participants in the planning process. Within ten years, most planning authorities within the UK followed suit. Other access methods now include routing inquiries through a centrally-hosted public or privately hosted website, such as UKPlanning or the national Planning Portal.
An applicant may appeal against a refusal of planning permission. A neighbour who objects to an application has no right of appeal, but may appeal to the local authority ombudsman if they can make a case of maladminstration by the local authority. In such a case the ombudsman has no powers to enforce a retraction of the permission, but it may sanction the local authority. Appeals can be made:
- In England, to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
- In Northern Ireland, to the Planning Appeals Commission.
- In Scotland, to the Scottish Government; Directorate for Planning & Environmental Appeals or a Local Review Body of the local planning authority.
- In Wales, to the Assembly.
In England and Wales the appeal is heard by a planning inspector, while in Scotland this role is filled by a reporter. There has often been talk[by whom?] of making the inspectors independent of government ministers, as in the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland.
The requirement to obtain planning permission extends not only to new construction, but also in substantive changes of use of a property. There are various 'use classes', and change of use to a different use class generally requires Planning permission.
The UK Property Classification main classes (excluding Scotland, which has a separate Use Classes Order) are:
- A1: shops
- A2: financial and professional services
- A3: restaurants and cafés
- A4: drinking establishments
- A5: hot food takeaways
- B1: businesses (offices, light industry)
- B2: general industrial
- B8: storage and distribution
- C1: hotels
- C2: residential institutions
- C3: dwellinghouses
- D1: non-residential institutions (schools, libraries, surgeries)
- D2: assembly and leisure (cinemas, swimming baths, gymnasiums)
Classes A3 to A5 were formed recently by a split of the previous A3 class 'Food and Drink', though this split was not effected in Wales; jurisdiction over secondary planning legislation being by then a matter for the Assembly.
Various uses are considered to be sui generis, meaning that they are considered to be a use class in themselves, and not part of an existing use class. These specifically include:
- amusement arcades
- petrol stations
- car dealerships
- taxi/car rental firm
- warehouse clubs
Elements of the modern system
- Development Control
- The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007
- Department for Communities and Local Government
- Local Planning Authority
- Advisory team for large applications
- Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
- Town and Country Planning Act 1990
- Planning Acts
- Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995
- Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987
- National Planning Policy Framework, replacing the Planning Policy Guidance Notes and Planning Policy Statements
- Design and access statement
The apparent aim of recent reforms to the planning system was to simplify and speed up the production of plans, the system has not been in place long enough to determine if this is the case. The financial costs and time delays associated with the new system are significant and the 2004 report by Barker on the planning system suggested some of the requirements were unnecessary and delaying the delivery of sustainable and social housing, and recommended early revisions to the regulations. HM Treasury noted the recommendation to redirect a portion of Section 106 financial contributions as a "planning gain supplement"" for wider community needs and has responded by an Act of Parliament that will levy "a tax on the increase in the value of land resulting from the grant of permission for development".
- Planning Green Paper
- Planning white paper (Scotland): Modernising the planning system
- Urban Planning
- Landscape planning
- Regional planning
- Royal Town Planning Institute
- Town and Country Planning Association
- Building Regulations
- Planning gain
- Listed Building
- Scheduled monument
- Conservation Area (United Kingdom)
- Pendleton Survey of web access to planning applications
- UK Planning access to local authority planning applications
- Planning Portal UK Government's online planning and building site
- www.planningportal.gov.uk[dead link]
- Planning Appeals Commission (Northern Ireland)
- Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporters Unit
- "Drinking establishment" does not specifically refer to alcoholic drinks
- Barker Review of Housing Supply - Final Report and Recommendations HM Treasury
- Planning-gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill 2006-07 Chancellor of the Exchequer, Her Majesty's Treasury
- K Gray and J Gray, Land Law (2011) ch 11