The UK Department for Communities and Local Government has launched its finalised online resource with updated and streamlined planning practice guidance. It follows a review by Lord Taylor in 2012 and the launch of a beta version of the website last year and cancels a range of previous planning guidance.
The guidance notes that, when determining applications for development on green belt land, a local authority's unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt to constitute "very special circumstances" justifying inappropriate development.
The guidance also clarifies the circumstances when a local authority can consider refusing to grant planning permission on the grounds that this would be premature in relation to emerging local policy.
"The coalition government is committed to reforming the planning system to make it simpler, clearer and easier for people to use, allowing local communities to shape where development should and should not go," said planning minister Nick Boles. "Planning should not be the exclusive preserve of lawyers, developers or town hall officials."
Boles also announced reforms to allow change of use from shops and financial and professional services into homes without the need for planning permission, although this will not apply to land within National Parks, Broads and World Heritage Sites. Agricultural buildings of up to 450 square metres will also be able to be converted to up to three homes under the reforms.
"We recognise the importance of retaining adequate provision of services that are essential to the local community such as post offices. The onus will be on the local planning authority to establish that the proposal would have a detrimental impact on the sustainability of a key shopping area or on local services should they wish to refuse the conversion," said Boles.
He said that local authorities will need to have a "robust evidence base" to justify any decision not to permit change of use after applying prior approval tests.