Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013
The Act sets out a series of reforms intended to reduce the red tape that the government considers hampers business investment, new infrastructure and job creation. It is hoped that this will help the UK recover from recession and allow it to compete more effectively on the global stage.
Specific measures which might affect development include:
- Allowing developers to make planning applications directly to the Secretary of State rather than a ‘prescribed’ local authority (that is, one which is in special measures as it is not performing). Local planning authorities can be designated as under-performing and placed under special measures if they fail to determine 30% or more of the major applications they handle within 13 weeks (applications for 10 homes or more, or the equivalent commercial floorspace), or if more than 20% of major applications decisions are overturned on appeal. Local planning authorities under special measures will lose a proportion of the application fee. Special measures designation will be reviewed annually to allow improving authorities to regain their determination powers.
- Allowing reconsideration of economically unviable Section 106 agreements on stalled housing developments. In particular it is thought this is targeting obligations to provide social housing, which some people consider make marginal developments unviable in the current economic climate.
- Removing regulatory barriers to major infrastructure investments such as the roll out of superfast broadband.
- Reducing the amount of information to be submitted with planning applications. NB The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) already states that the information required “…should be proportionate to the nature and scale of the development proposals.”
- Preventing improper town and village green applications from stopping development.
- Implementing the recommendations of the 'Penfold Review (removing the requirement for multiple, overlapping consents in addition to planning permission).
- Offering a fast-track route for planning applications for large-scale commercial projects.
- Making it easier to stop-up public paths and bridleways as part of a planning application.
- Allowing land owners to make a declaration that they do not intend to dedicate land as a public highway.
- Allowing local authorities to dispose of land at less than best value in order to get more brownfield land into productive use.
Other measures include:
- Creating an employee-owner status for companies, through tax-free shares for workers.
- Ensuring that business rates do not increase unexpectedly in the next five years.
Despite a great deal of discussion, the Act only includes limited provisions relating to permitted development, and these will still require consideration by the local planning authority if neighbours object.
The Act targets the planning system which is seen by some in government as a barrier to progress. Despite this, The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is broadly supportive (ref). They do however express concern about how the performance of Local Planning Authorities will be judged, and suggest that re-negotiating Section 106 Agreements might actually delay proceedings rather than speeding them up.
Opponents have described the Act as a developers' charter and suggest that it runs counter to the intentions of the Localism Act. There is also concern that the planning system is still in the process of re-structuring following the implementation of the National Planning Policy Framework, and that these further changes could throw it into confusion. In addition, there are questions about whether a central planning processes will be any faster than local planning processes.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Affordable housing.
- Business rates.
- Localism Act.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Government Construction Strategy.
- Going for growth, Reviewing the Effectiveness of Government Growth Initiatives.
- Highways Infrastructure Asset Management Plans.
- Penfold review.
- Permitted Development.
- Planning Permission.
- Section 106 Agreement.
- Special measures.
 External references
- The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.
- Parliamentary reporting of progress of the Bill.
- The Bill in full.
- Growth and Infrastructure Bill: Bill 75 of 2012-13. Research Paper 12/61 25 October 2012.
- Planning Resource: Growth Bill's 'special measures' clause amended in Lords.
- RTPI response to the publication of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.
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