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Government extends planning and ‘green’ support

He also spoke about important measures to simplify the system – making it easier to apply for planning permission in the first place. This included giving local authorities the freedom to make changes to large developments and town centres by using Local Development Orders (LDOs).  The LDOs will make it easier to for developers and councils to find new uses for empty shops on the high street and expand businesses and industrial estates. During the speech, it was announced that Government will fund up to 12 local authorities to create LDOs, working with the Planning Advisory Service.

Mr Healey also launched a consultation on changes to the Building Regulations to deliver the first step towards zero carbon buildings and carbon savings of over three million tonnes a year from 2020.   An important plank of the government’s commitment to tackling climate change, the proposals would require a 25 per cent improvement in energy efficiency standards for new homes and other buildings from October 2010. This will require better insulation and draught-proofing, better low-energy lighting and more efficient boilers.  The higher energy efficiency standards will also mean lower fuel bills – by up to £100 a year for an average home.

In his speech to the Royal Town and Planning Institute in London, Mr Healey said:

“During the downturn, our first concern has been to act and invest to accelerate recovery. The Prime Minister has said that we’ll do whatever it takes to see people through these tough times, keep companies in business and people in their homes. So today I’m announcing the power for local authorities to extend the time limits for existing planning permissions. This will help to make sure that more homes, offices and factories get built at a time when investing in new developments is difficult and when access to funding is hard. The changes also make it easier to apply for planning permission in the first place and give developers scope to make minor alterations without going back to the start of the application process, therefore saving time and money.

“We recognise development is difficult during the downturn, so we need to do what we can to cut out unnecessary bureaucracy and keep developments warm and keep plans on the table. And through LDOs and the funding for 12 pilot projects I’m announcing today, we’re making it easier for councils to revive their high streets by finding new uses for empty shops or support other local businesses as they see fit.

“While it is right that we have taken action now to help people and businesses struggling with the economic downturn, we need to also stay focussed on the long term and step up action to tackle climate change.

“In the UK we know that nearly half of our carbon emissions come from our buildings, 27 per cent come from our homes and a further 17 per cent from other non domestic buildings. So we must build our homes to a better, greener standard. We are leading the way globally, with our ambitions for zero carbon homes and buildings.

“I have announced the next step towards zero carbon – a 25 per cent improvement on current standards for new homes or buildings from 2010.  This consultation on changes to the Building Regulations means we are not only building to better standards, but making homes cheaper to heat and run for the families living in them.  It could mean savings of up to £100 a year for an average home.

“These measures demonstrate that we have listened to the needs of people, councils, industry and developers and are taking practical action that will make a real difference to communities across the country.”

The LGA, the British Property Federation (BPF) and the CBI have all called for local authorities to have the power to extend the time limits for existing planning permissions without the need for a completely fresh application.

Mr Healey launched the consultation on changes to Building Regulations and the consultation paper “Greater Flexibility for Planning Permissions” at his first keynote speech to delegates at the three-day conference, ‘Planning in  Changing Climate’, at the RTPI in London on Thursday 18 June.

The Government will also be making the process of preparing Local Development Orders (LDOs) simpler. LDOs allow local authorities the opportunity to permit small-scale development without the need for planning permission to meet local needs more effectively.

The department is already taking great strides in making it easier for businesses to apply for their initial planning permission. Work is ongoing to streamline the national planning policy framework, which will lead to greater clarity for business. Other departmental policies (such as taking forward recommendations from the Killian Pretty review) will also ensure that the burden of planning on business is minimised.

Martin Willey, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute said:

“There is no choice regarding the need to address climate change- the consequences of not acting now are unacceptable. The planning process provides an immediate and positive mechanism to deliver change, and to grow the green economy. Planners are at the forefront of taking real action to reduce carbon emissions and the RTPI’s Seven Commitments set out how we can achieve this. We are pleased that John Healey has recognised the vital importance of tackling climate change and of recognising the importance of preparing the planning system for the upturn.”

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