Category: Planning & Development

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In England, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) has become mandatory from 12th February 2024. Development must now achieve a 10% BNG measured against the pre-development biodiversity value of the on-site habitat.

This 10% increase can be achieved through on-site or off-site biodiversity gains or statutory biodiversity credits. Once planning permission has been granted, the biodiversity gain condition will be imposed. A Biodiversity Gain Plan must be submitted and approved by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) before the commencement of the development.

What will be exempted from BNG requirements?

What do you need to prepare in respect of BNG in advance of a planning application?

  1. Check whether it is exempted.
  2. Consider BNG in the site selection and design.
  3. Carry out a pre-development biodiversity calculation of the existing habitat and explore possible ways, i.e. on-site, off-site or statutory biodiversity credits, to achieve BNG.
  4. Submit the application with the information of pre-development biodiversity value, completed metric calculation, a description of any irreplaceable habitat and plan(s) showing existing on-site habitat, etc. The amount of information for planning applications will vary depending on the type and scale of development, type of planning application, the on-site habitat impacted and the extent of any significant on-site enhancements.
  5. Once planning permission is granted, submit a Biodiversity Gain Plan for approval  together with the information of on-site habitat, registered off-site biodiversity gain or any biodiversity credits purchased prior to the commencement of the development.
  6. For significant on-site habitat enhancements, it must be secured by either a planning condition, Section 106 agreement or conservation covenant for at least 30 years after the completion of the development.
  7. To buy or sell off-site gain, it must enter a legal agreement for at least 30 years from the date of completing the habitat enhancement.
  8. It will be in breach of planning conditions, planning obligations or legal agreement if the BNG requirements cannot be met. The LPA could take enforcement action.  

If you would like more information on the above or would like to find out how our Planning team can help you navigate the additional BNG requirements associated with a planning application, please contact Abel Bunu, Principal Planner on 01234 362891 or David Sawford, Partner & Chartered Building Surveyor on 01234 362909.

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill received Royal Assent on 26th October 2023 and is now officially the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023. However, some of the sections relating to development management and plan-making have not commenced and will require secondary legislation.

It is intended that the Act will, among other things, help in delivering new housing, regenerating high streets and bringing vacant properties back to life.

Some of the key changes are:

All the changes are designed to ensure that developments are sustainable and more energy efficient and with the aim of speeding up the planning process.

If you would like more information on the above or would like to find out how our Planning & Development team can help you take advantage of the changes being introduced to the planning system, please contact me.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is running a consultation until 25th September 2023 on a proposal to further relax Permitted Development Rights for selected categories of development.

The Government is looking to ensure that the planning system is efficient, effective, responsive and delivers beautiful and well-designed development. This consultation requests views on proposals designed to promote the delivery of well-designed development and support housing delivery, the agricultural sector and economic growth.

Some of the main highlights in the consultation paper include the following proposals:

Change of use of buildings within the commercial, business and service use class to residential use (MA)

Agricultural buildings to houses (Class Q)

Agricultural buildings to a flexible commercial use (Class R)

Agricultural development on land over 5 hectares (Part 6, Class A)

Agricultural development on land below 5 hectares (Part 6, Class B)

Please note that the above list is not exhaustive.

Abel Bunu, Principal Planner, comments “As usual, we expect that if the proposed changes succeed, they will come with a raft of qualifying criteria to be satisfied before enjoying the Permitted Development Rights. Nevertheless, the additional flexibility offered would increase the opportunities for development of agricultural land and buildings.”

Responses to this consultation can be sent via the online link here or via email to It is important to respond where applicable as all responses are reviewed when determining whether the changes are to take place.

Please note that local planning authorities have the right to withdraw Permitted Development Rights and so it is important to act quickly before this happens.

If you would like more information on the above or would like to find out how our Planning & Development team can help you take advantage of the changes being introduced to the planning system, please contact Abel or David.

With the growth in the market of short term lets of a room or rooms in a residential property through Airbnb and other such companies, has led the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to hold a consultation on the introduction of a new use class and associated permitted development rights. The consultation has now closed but it covered the following areas:

  1. The introduction of a new use class for short term lets.
  2. The potential introduction of new permitted development rights for the change of use from a house to a short term let.
  3. The potential introduction of a new permitted development right for the change of use from a short term let to a house.
  4. How flexibility for homeowners to let out their home for a number of nights in a calendar year could be provided through either changes to the house use class or an additional permitted development right.
  5. The introduction of a planning application fee for the development of new build short term lets.

We expect that if the proposal succeeds, it will come with a raft of qualifying criteria to be satisfied first before enjoying the permitted development rights. Nevertheless, the new use class will provide an opportunity for property owners to explore new investment options for their property.

Please note that local planning authorities have the right to withdraw permitted development rights and so, if the new use class and associated permitted development rights do come in, it is important to act quickly before this happens. We will update you once any announcements have been made.

If you would like more information on the above or would like to find out how our Planning & Development team can help you take advantage of the changes being introduced to the planning system, please contact Abel Bunu, Principal Planner on 01234 362891 or David Sawford, Head of Planning on 01234 362909.

Planning permission is required if you want to change the use of a building or piece of land, build something, or make a major change to a building such as extending it. The risk of not obtaining the appropriate planning permission is that yourself or your business could be served with an enforcement notice.   

There are occasions when planning permission is not required and this is when permitted development rights apply. There are specific permitted development rights that apply to agricultural holdings and buildings. If your farm is 5 hectares or more then you have permitted development rights to erect a farm building (up to 1,000 m2) or carry out excavations and engineering operations needed for agricultural purposes. Permitted development rights also enable the change of use of certain agricultural buildings to dwellings, commercial space or schools.

The first stage of any potential development is to understand whether:

a) it counts as permitted development; and

b) it requires full planning permission.

Often, projects which are permitted development still require an application process known as the ‘prior approval’ which assesses the proposals to ensure they comply with the permitted development regulations.

It is helpful to employ a qualified planner to help you understand what type of application is required and what information the Local Planning Authority will require to determine the application. Robinson & Hall has vast experience on a range of application types and is able to assist from the initial pre-application stages, preparation and submission of a planning application through to a decision and even to appeal. 

Robinson & Hall’s Top Tips for a Successful Planning Application:

Common Pitfalls to Avoid when Applying for Planning Permission:

Have You Undertaken Development Without Planning Permission?

If you have undertaken development without planning permission, you could be at risk from enforcement action such as the receipt of an enforcement notice. It is illegal to ignore an enforcement notice and to do so could result in a stop notice being served, a large fine being issued or even potential prison time. There are only 28 days to appeal an enforcement notice and so if you are served with one, you should seek professional planning advice immediately.

Planning can be confusing and mistakes can be made. Breaches of planning can be regularised in two ways:

  1. Submission of a retrospective planning application;
  2. Submission of a Certificate of Lawful Use.

We have been involved with a variety of cases whereby planning was mistakenly not obtained, or enforcement notices have been served. We are well experienced in reviewing sites and cases on an individual basis and advising the best course of action.

Had Planning Refused? How We Can Help:

If you have submitted a planning application that has been refused by the Local Planning Authority, there are options for you to still proceed.

Appeal – Applicants can appeal planning authority decisions up to six months after the issuing of a decision notice. We offer a full appeal service, irrespective if of whether we were involved in the initial planning application or not. We are able to advise on all types of appeals and have been very successful in overturning refused planning applications through the appeals process with the Planning Inspectorate.

Resubmission – We also have experience in assisting where applications have been refused or withdrawn. This could have been through a misunderstanding with the Local Planning Authority or because of missing information if the application was submitted without specialist planning advice. We can review previously submitted applications and assess what would be required at a re-submission stage to ensure a successful outcome. We work closely with third-party consultants and have good relationships with the Local Planning Authorities.

Other Planning News

For more information please contact Abel Bunu, Principal Planner on 01234 362891 or email

There is currently a consultation underway on proposals to increase planning application fees that will enable improvements to capacity and performance within the Local Planning Authorities. The consultation began on 28th February 2023 and will continue until 25th April 2023.

The proposals to increase the fees and increase performance are as follows:

It is anticipated that following the consultation and any amendments, these proposals could be introduced in summer 2023.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has recognised that the increases in fees could alleviate the pressure on planning services. However, there is more that can be done in terms of issues regarding capacity, resourcing and skills.

For more information or to find out how our Planning & Development department can help you please contact 01234 352201 or email

If you are planning a new building project this year, please contact us and our highly successful team can help you to get the planning process started.

The images below highlight some exciting projects we have previously been involved with and delivered a successful outcome. We are happy to advise you on the potential feasibility of your scheme and provide our expertise and practical opinion on all the factors you are likely to encounter.

You can also click and browse here to obtain further information on our services.

Whether it is a domestic or commercial project, please give us a call on 01234 352201 to discuss your ideas and to start the planning process.

There is currently a consultation underway on proposed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that have been put forward by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The consultation began on 22nd December 2022 and will continue to run until 2nd March 2023.

Key revisions proposed to the NPPF are as follows:

It is understood that the Government will respond to the consultation immediately in the spring and the NPPF revisions will be published as part of this exercise.

For more information, please contact Shannon Fuller, Planner at Robinson & Hall, on 01234 362913 or email

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

Many changes have been made across the Government over recent weeks, but the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, announced earlier this year, remains at a committee stage where it is being examined. However, since the recent changes at Government level, this has been extended and it is believed that potential major changes in legislation could still be made.

The Bill proposes the following outcomes to shake up the planning system:

In September, our former Prime Minister’s Government headed by Liz Truss announced their Growth Plan which proposes further changes to the planning system to quicken infrastructure projects and introduce ‘investment zones’. These investment zones will have deregulated planning rules and have the “potential to accelerate growth and deliver housing”. It is understood that Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council are in discussions with the Government to host investment zones, but we await further detail on these. It is unclear following the resignation of Liz Truss if Investment Zones are still on the agenda.

Enforcement Update – Ending of the 4 Year Rule

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill proposes the phasing out of the four year rule for taking enforcement action against breaches in planning control. At present, the time limits for which local planning authorities can take planning enforcement action against breaches in planning control are as follows:

If the four year rule is phased out as is predicted, any breaches of planning shall need to demonstrate that they have been undertaken continuously (with robust evidence) for a period of 10 years or more to demonstrate the development is lawful (in planning terms).

Please be aware, if you have undertaken development that would fall into the four year category and the time limit has passed, now is the time to prepare and apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.

If you are concerned that you may be involved in a breach of planning or have been contacted by your local Enforcement Officer, please contact our planning professionals who would be happy to provide advice on how to remediate any issues.

Local Plan Update

Bedford Borough Council

The Council is still in the process of updating its Local Plan 2030 and replacing it with the Local Plan 2040. Following consultations in both 2020 and 2021, the next stage for the Local Plan 2040 is submission to the Planning Inspectorate for examination in early 2023.

Central Bedfordshire Council

The Central Bedfordshire Local Plan 2015-2035 was adopted in July 2021. The Council is currently undertaking a review of this Plan, which will be considered at committee in November 2022.

We are currently awaiting more information regarding a further Local Plan update, but a future consultation is expected in 2024.

Buckinghamshire Council

Buckinghamshire Council has just undertaken a wider call for sites exercise which ended on 11th September 2022. These sites will now be assessed as part of the Housing Economic and Land Availability Assessment. The Council must have a Local Plan by April 2025.

Milton Keynes Council

Milton Keynes has also recently undertaken a call for sites exercise and this concluded in April 2022. The next consultation on the emerging Plan is expected to take place in summer/autumn 2023.

For more information or to discuss your planning project, please contact Shannon Fuller.

Opportunities to invest in renewable energy is on the increase, helped by the fact that the Government has set ambitious targets to boost the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

With a focus on maximising the efficient use of land, the strategy supports “co-located” solar projects that are developed alongside farming, onshore wind generation or energy storage, all of which present an opportunity for farm diversification.

We have been actively involved in securing planning permission for a solar farm in Central Bedfordshire and are well placed to offer sound advice and guide you through the entire planning process.

We have the expertise to assist you and will carry out a planning appraisal to assess your land for potential renewable energy development. We will ensure you take advantage of the opportunities available and make a real contribution towards mitigating the effects of climate change by generating clean energy.

We are also acting for a number of landowners looking to agree terms with solar developers on option agreements. We are therefore well placed to advise on the commercial terms of such agreements should you be approached by a developer looking for an option over your land.

For more information or to discuss your land with our planning team, please contact Abel Bunu.