Planning & environment

Unauthorised changes to a listed building can land you in prison

A recent case in Warwickshire highlights how seriously planning authorities view the altering of listed buildings without the required permission. In this particular case the substitution of modern materials landed an architect in court. After pleading guilty to the criminal offence of carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building, Mr Shepherd wound up with a £4,000 fine and an instruction to pay Stratford upon Avon District Council’s legal fees of £10,000.

Confusion over barn conversions

Since May 2013, redundant agricultural buildings can be converted to residential units without having to apply for planning permission if the plans meet the approval of the local authority. However, it is clear from conversations with those wanting to proceed with such conversions, that interpreting some of the permitted development rules has been giving local authorities a headache.

Infrastructure Act introduces ‘Deemed Discharge of Planning Conditions’

One of the last legislative acts of the coalition government was to pass the Infrastructure Act which, among other things, introduces further liberalisation of the planning laws by speeding up the process of approving planning conditions (or deemed discharge). According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain is building only half the number of houses it needs to keep up with population growth – a situation which has not improved much since the 1970s. The planning regime stands accused of being one of the main barriers to increased levels of development and one of the reasons for this is the slow approval of applications to discharge planning conditions.

Are you ESOS aware?

All large, eligible organisations (excluding the public sector) must have carried out an energy efficiency audit by 5 December 2015. This audit will be conducted under the auspices of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), the UK’s response to the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. The audit will assess the energy efficiency of businesses’ operations including (but not confined to) buildings, transport and industrial processes and will also be used to identify further energy saving opportunities.

Energy Efficiency Standards will become mandatory

In the light of the government’s obligation to impose minimum energy efficiency standards on privately rented buildings, both domestic and non-domestic (as required by the Energy Act 2011), will be subject to the Energy Efficiency Regulations. The stated objectives of the regulations are to reduce energy usage and UK greenhouse gas emissions, and improve living conditions for poorer households. The regulations herald two significant changes, one affecting landlords, the other tenants.

Changing Development Consent Orders post-approval

Although there is already a procedure in place for changing Development Consent Orders (DCOs) post-approval (via the Infrastructure Planning (Changes to, and Revocation of, Development Consent Orders) Regulations 2011) there is a generally held view that the process is too lengthy and holds up major infrastructure projects unnecessarily with the attendant cost implications. Therefore, the Government’s proposals for shortening the process were encapsulated in a consultation exercise carried out in late 2014. The results of the consultation were published prior to the December Autumn Statement and, no doubt to the Government’s relief, most respondents (of whom 15% were developers, 30% local authorities and 21% private individuals) broadly agreed with the proposals.
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