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Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA) received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023, introducing a raft of new measures, but more importantly, putting an end to the LURB puns in these articles. 

The LURA has been sold to us as creating the foundations for a plan-led system and reducing geographical disparities between areas within England. The Government hopes that the Act will “speed up the planning system, hold developers to account, cut bureaucracy, and encourage more councils to put in place plans to enable the building of new homes”. However, due to the reliance on secondary legislation most changes under LURA will not come into force immediately and therefore any immediate changes may seem less dramatic in practice.

By no means is this an exhaustive summary, but the following planning provisions came into force in England on 26 December 2023:

  1. Street Votes – s.108 will now allow residents to propose development on their street that encompasses their design preference and subsequently vote on whether planning permission should be given to extend or redevelop their properties.
  2. Urgent Crown Development – s.109 relates to powers that allow “urgent crown development” applications to be made directly to the Secretary of State in certain circumstances, setting out the correct procedures for doing so.
  3. Commencement notices – s.111 creates a new requirement for developers to submit commencement notices to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to help them track build-out rates in their area. This requirement is mandatory and LPA can force a notice to be served if the developer does not comply. Delay of more than 21 days is an offence liable on summary conviction to a fine up to £1,000.
  4. Completion notices – s.112 allows LPAs to issue completion notices if a development is being built out ‘unreasonably slowly’. The LPA must allow at least 12 months after service of the notice for works to be completed. If development needs to continue beyond this date, then a new permission is required. Completion notices no longer required confirmation by the Secretary of State’s confirmation. The developer has a right of appeal on the grounds that service of the notice is unreasonable, or that development will be completed within a reasonable timescale. 
  5. Power to decline to determine planning applications – s.113 will allow LPAs to decline to determine a planning application if a developer has failed to implement a previous planning permission or built-out unreasonably slowly. This approach is controversial as it focuses on a developer’s past conduct on previous applications.
  6. Relief from enforcement of planning conditions – s.121 grants the Secretary of State the power to prevent an LPA from taking enforcement measures for non-compliance with conditions in the following areas: national defence; civil emergency; or significant disruption to the UK economy. 
  7. Ancient Woodland – s.136 requires the Secretary of State to vary the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2021 by 26 January 2024 to require the introduction of a consultation direction for developments affecting ancient woodlands.
  8. Environmental regulations – Part 6 (including Schedule 13 relating to Part 6) will replace Environmental Impact Assessments, Sustainability Appraisals and Strategic Environmental Assessments which were carried over from EU Directives, with an Environmental Outcome Report. Applicants will report on the performance of projects, with a focus placed on meeting national environmental targets. 

Other provisions of LURA are not yet in force, and will gradually come into effect when other secondary legislation is approved:

  1. Crown Development - s.109 provisions allowing urgent development on Crown land provisions.
  2. Changes to development plans and local plans – ss.92-99/schedule 7 imposes the duty for LPAs to publish and comply with a 30-month local plan timetable and comply with new local plan procedure, as well as design codes to be implemented in the development plan.
  3. Infrastructure funding – part 4/ Schedule 12 – The intention behind this is to calculate a fairer share for affordable housing and local infrastructure by calculating the amount developers pay once a project has completed instead of from the initial planning permission stage.  The LPA set the levy rates themselves and therefore will be able to apply a threshold that suits their area’s needs.
  4. Planning enforcement – s.115 changes the enforcement time limit for building and operational development and for the change of use to a single dwelling house from four to ten years from completion of the operations/the date of the breach respectively. There has also been an extension on the period that temporary stop notices apply, changing from 28 to 56 days. Notably, it is still not clear whether this will apply retrospectively. What happens where a dwelling originally built in 2018, without planning permission, secures a lawful use certificate after four years? Would this now be in breach?

Despite the usual noises from Government about ‘speeding things up’ or ‘cutting bureaucracy’, LURA represents lots of little changes at the edges of the planning system. However, there is little to suggest a particular shift in policy, or how the Government intends to tackle the most pressing issue; the housing crisis. As this issue becomes more of a political football, you can’t help but feel that the Government will need to adopt policies to deal with this, if they are to win a General Election. 


levelling up, planning applications, development, planning, strategic land, living, robin barnes, lydia cassettari