TOWN PLANNING LEGISLATION IN ENGLAND

Planning law legislation in england photo of parliament westminster

TOWN PLANNING LAW IN ENGLAND

Planning legislation forms the foundations of the planning system in England, which regulates the use of land and development across the country.  

The system is complex and made up of: 

  • Primary legislation (laws) in the form of Acts of Parliament or Statutes; and
  • Secondary legislation in the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs, codes, Orders, Regulations etc). 
 
Until Brexit is complete and transitional arrangements have expired at the end of 2020, the UK is still bound by relevant European directives and legal statutes. 
 
All UK legislation is available to view at legislation.gov.uk 
 
 

PRIMARY PLANNING LEGISLATION

Primary legislation in England (and UK nationally) is passed by Parliament in Westminster, London. 
 
There are devolved law-making parliaments and assemblies in Scotland (Edinburgh), Wales (Cardiff) and Northern Ireland (Stormont, Belfast).  Planning is a devolved function, resulting in different planning systems in each of the countries within the UK. 
 
A useful explanation of the structure of law across the UK and each of the countries can be found at Law of the UK – Wikipedia.  
 

Examples of primary planning legislation in England includes:

  • Town & Country Planning Act (1990)
  • Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990
  • Planning and Compensation Act (1991)
  • Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act (2004)
  • Planning Act (2008)
  • Localism Act (2011)
  • Growth and Infrastructure Act (2013)
  • Infrastructure Act (2015)
  • Housing and Planning Act (2016)
  • Neighbourhood Planning Act (2017)

SECONDARY LEGISLATION

Secondary legislation is subordinate to primary legislation and generally made by government ministers or devolved officers under powers delegated by respective parliaments.  
 
In England, the government ministry with overall responsibility for the planning system is the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).  
 

Key ministers at the department include:

  • Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations
  • Other Ministers of State have been named, but their responsibilities following the Sept 2021 reshuffle are to be confirmed. 

 

HOW PLANNING LAWS ARE MADE IN ENGLAND

PRIMARY LEGISLATION – THE PLANNING ACTS

There are various stages of drafting, publication, consultation and examination in the course of planning acts becoming law as explained below. 

1 – PLANNING GREEN PAPERS – PROPOSED NEW LAWS

Laws affecting the planning system in England generally begin life as a Green Paper. These are documents published to generate debate on policy. 

Green Papers usually set out options for legislative change without committing to a particular course of action. 

2 – PLANNING WHITE PAPERS – INTENTION TO CHANGE LAWS

White Papers are issued by government as statements of policy and serious proposals for legislative change.  They are usually subjected to public consultation which the government responds to before progressing to the next, more detailed stage of drafting legislation.  

In August 2020, the government consulted on proposed major reforms to the planning system.  A White Paper –  Planning for the Future was subject to a three month consultation.

 
Planning White Paper Future System Cover 

3 – PLANNING BILLS – DRAFT LEGISLATION

Planning Bills are detailed documents, drafted by civil servants on behalf of ministers before being introduced to the House of Commons and House of Lords for debate. 

Bills are examined very closely by Parliament with the various stages of debate comprising:

  • First Reading
  • Second Reading
  • Committee Stage
  • Report Stage
  • Third Reading

4 – ROYAL ASSENT – PLANNING ACTS BECOME LAW

When (or if!) agreement is reached between both Houses on the content of a Bill, it is presented to the Queen who grants Royal Assent, meaning it is now an Act of Parliament. 

The Act becomes law on the date of commencement set out in the Act. 

SECONDARY LEGISLATION – STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS

Statutory Instruments ‘fill in the legal gaps’ left by Acts and facilitate the law to be enforced and operated in day to day practice. 

SIs are drafted by civil servants in government departments which are then ‘made’ by the Minister or Secretary of State with responsibility for the Instrument.   

The process for publishing and confirming SI’s is much shorter than for primary legislation and doesn’t involve votes of Parliament. 

Examples of Statutory Instruments used in the English planning system include:

  • Use Classes Order
  • General Permitted Development Order
  • Application Fee Regulations

TownPlanning.info has an extensive catalogue of articles and guides which help explain the town planning system in England. 

See below for links to some of our most popular pages or use the search function and menus at the top of the page.  

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