The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill was recently announced in the 2016 Queen’s speech, with the stated aim of supporting the government’s plan to deliver 1 million new homes. The Bill will make major changes in the law and procedures surrounding planning, land registration and compulsory purchase orders.
The first effect of the new Bill will be the privatisation of the Land Registry. This has been the subject of a Consultation since March (DJB article) but now is a definite part of the legislative agenda. This is intended to increase the cost effectiveness of the process as well as draw in the investment needed to create a modern, digital land registry. However the move has drawn scepticism by some as to whether a private body would be able to maintain the impartiality of the current system.
Secondly, the bill will alter two aspects of planning regulation by strengthening neighbourhood planning and by ‘tackling the overuse’ of pre-commencement planning conditions. The government believes that this will make the planning process easier and enable the quicker implementation of new development projects.
Thirdly, the bill will establish the National Infrastructure Commission, which has operated on an interim basis since October 2015, in statute. The Commission provides the Government with independent advice on infrastructure policy and strategy. This move is designed to support the Government’s manifesto pledge to invest £100 billion in infrastructure and to signal a clear commitment to long term investment in infrastructure.
Finally, the compulsory purchase order process will be made clearer, fairer and faster for those involved. This will include the consolidation of rules on CPO compensation into a new statutory framework for agreeing compensation.
The government’s proposals to clarify and codify the compulsory purchase order system in this Bill are to be particularly welcomed. For many years, the compulsory purchase system has been an obscure area of law whose apparent complexity has deterred many from venturing to use the very useful powers it contains. It is to be hoped that the Bill will finally introduce the comprehensive revision of the compulsory purchase system that has been called for on so many previous occasions.