Garden centres get Budget help

Planning experts advise retailers that changes offer an opportunity for new planning applications.

Garden centre planning experts have been offering advice to garden retailers following the 2011 Budget, encouraging businesses to apply for new planning permission should they be in a position to do so.

Malcolm Scott Consultants planner Tracy Hubbard said: "Last week's Budget and growth review introduced changes to the planning system to support economic growth and sustainable development."

Consultancy Pleydell Smithyman is advising the industry that now is the time for garden centres to apply for planning permission.

Pleydell Smithyman planning consultant Kathryn Whiten said: "Local authorities must take into account the likely range of economic, environmental and social benefits of a development when considering whether or not to grant planning permission, including the creation of jobs and providing an increase in consumer choice."

Hubbard said the changes likely to be of most relevance to the garden retail industry were:

- The introduction of a new presumption in favour of sustainable development.

- A shorter, more focused National Planning Policy Framework. This will replace the existing system of planning policy guidance notes and statements, which deal with issues on a subject-by-subject basis. The framework will be published later this year and the Government aims for it to be in place by the end of 2011.

- Businesses are will be able to use neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders, which previously only residents could do, allowing businesses to shape future development. Businesses will be encouraged to work closely with communities.

- The Government has also stated that it will introduce a number of measures to streamline the application process, such as a 12-month processing period for all applications, including any appeals. There will be a consultation exercise on how to make the application process more streamlined and remove bureaucracy.

- The Government intends to carry out an urgent review of the Use Classes Order and make changes to permitted development rights to cut red tape, making it easier to change the use of existing buildings.

- Introduction of 21 new enterprise zones, with simpler planning regulations and financial incentives for businesses choosing to relocate to these areas.


- Kathryn Whiten, planning consultant, Pleydell Smithyman

"We have more than 20 live planning projects where clients are hoping to take advantage of the Government's new approach to development.

"Even if you don't plan to build immediately, this is a great time to 'bank' approvals. This can increase equity value as well as providing for future business growth. But this impetus won't last forever so now is the time to act."

- Tracy Hubbard, planner, Malcolm Scott Consultants

"The budget introduced a new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to development is 'yes'.

"The details of this presumption in favour of development are due to be published for consultation in May 2011.

"Protection of green belts and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will also remain a priority."

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