October 2012 Archives
September 27th marked the six-month anniversary of the implementation of the government's new planning policy framework; designed ostensibly to simplify the planning system, protect the environment and, perhaps most crucially, to promote sustainable development.
With an entire section within the guidelines devoted to 'Ensuring the Vitality of Town Centres', the framework was also designed (albeit less pointedly) to stymie the proliferation of major out-of-town retail schemes, and lend another government hand to the long wished-for recovery of Britain's urban centres.
The full impact of the new framework won't be fully realised for some time; however, six months on, we can perhaps begin to assimilate an understanding of how the new guidelines are shaping retail planning (if at all) - and in particular the impact so far on out-of-town developments.
The criteria for inclusion in the following study were that the applications either have to be for new out-of-town retail developments measuring over 50,000 sq ft with three units or more, or for extensions to existing developments of that nature.
The charts below show the number of applications submitted between April 15th and July 15th over the last three years, and the combined sizes of all proposals:
What these charts signify is that although the number of applications has reduced compared to last year, the total amount of space has hardly dropped off at all - there are still several major applications for out-of-town space being lodged even with the new framework in mind. 2010 saw a similar overall number of applications to 2012, but for only around 60% of the amount of space applied for this year.
The pie charts below indicate the status of these proposals as of September 27th in each respective year:
In the two years preceding the NPPF, 50% or more of the applications submitted between April 15th and July 15th had been approved by September 27th. In 2012, only 33% of applications (5) had been given the thumbs-up by that date. This is in addition to one of the proposals having already been refused - which did not happen in 2011 or 2010. Whilst we can't assess the exact role of the NPPF in every individual application; it seems fair to say that the new guidelines are having an impact when it comes to the final outcomes of out-of-town proposals.
This theory is backed up by the chart below, which indicates the average time taken (within the 15th April - 27th September parameter) for the applications to be decided:
2012's average is a significant increase on those of 2010 and 2011, and may go some way to explaining the higher proportion of applications without decisions. As authorities adjust to operating the mechanics of decision making within the guidelines of the new proposals, delays to decisions are to be expected. This might also be due to different interpretations of the nuances of the planning framework causing developers to further explain why their proposal constitutes a 'sustainable development', and for objectors to counter that with reasons to explain why it doesn't.
Moving forwards, I will be interested to keep an eye on the undecided applications thus far from 2012 - as they represent 77% of the total space applied for. Of the undecided applications from 2010, 50% of the space was eventually permitted, whilst the 2011 figure is 29% (40% still without an outcome).
In twelve months' time, it will be of interest to see what proportion of the as-yet-undecided space has got the go-ahead, the percentage refused permission, and also how much has been either withdrawn or even superseded. I'll also be curious to see the number and scale of out of town proposals lodged during a full eighteen months of NPPF implementation.
I said at the outset that the full impact of the new planning framework is still to be realised - but there are certainly some visible trends so far that it is having an impact upon decision making, even if from a spatial point of view it hasn't quite dampened developers' tendencies to look beyond the urban perimeter for expansion opportunities. This may come further down the line, however, when the NPPF regulations mean a higher proportion of out-of-town applications are either turned down or left unresolved for an unpalatable length of time.
(All Sources: EGi Planning)