5 Min Read

Street Vote Proposals

Read More

By Isaac Jong


Published 18 January 2023


The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was created with the aim to drive local growth, empower leaders to regenerate areas and ensure people across the UK can share in the success.

The Bill intends to improve the planning system within the UK – be it from an operational standpoint or a social standpoint. One of their valiant efforts is to allow for communities to have a louder voice through the introduction of the Street Vote Development Order (SVDO).

Seemingly, the purpose of the SVDO is to encourage local communities to be involved in the future of their communities. The explanatory notes published alongside the draft Bill said the policy would provide a “positive incentive for neighbours to consider the potential for development, especially in areas of higher demand, and support a gentle increase in densities through well-considered, well- designed and locally supported proposals”.

At first instance, it seems oxymoronic that the goal of the Bill is to simplify or ‘loosen’ the planning system yet what is being introduced via the SVDO proposals seems to be akin to adding another layer to the onion that is the planning system.

Where prescribed development rules and other statutory requirements are met, the SVDO proposals would be subject to a referendum of the street’s residents to determine whether they should be given planning permission. Planning permission will only be granted when an independent examiner is satisfied that certain requirements, such as on design, have been met and the proposal is endorsed at a referendum by the immediate community.

The Street Vote Development Order Regulations (the “Regulations”) look to set out a process with hoops and hurdles that an applicant would have to go through such as: the scope of the SVDO and the area to which it would apply, in particular what would be considered a ‘street area’ and the relevant exclusions- areas in the green belt, national parks, sites of specific scientific interest, areas of outstanding natural beauty are included in those designated as “excluded areas”; who can initiate the process of obtaining the SVDO and who examines the proposals put forward for approval; and the process for making the SVDO- conditions before a proposals falls to be considered by the appointed person, procedures for examination, determination periods and costs along with potential exemptions.

The proposals do not seem to fully add any real positive impact and just add another layer of bureaucracy. For instance: the provisions on referendums held in connection with the SVDO; the granting of the SVDO that can be subject to specific conditions, restrictions (inability to commence development or restriction on occupation) and even requirements to enter into obligations; the ability for works already begun to complete even after the revocation of an SVDO, unless agreed otherwise; the requirement to replace the SVDO entirely with a new one if there should be a modification (no use of non-material amendments); an independent examination which feels like. There are what would also seem some positives for the community but uncertain for local authorities such as a general discretion that allows the Secretary of State to do anything that the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of publicising or promoting the making of the SVDO or giving advice or assistance (including financial assistance by any means such as a loan and the giving of a guarantee or indemnity) to anyone in relation to the making of the SVDO; charging authorities for CIL may impose the levy on developments permitted by the SVDO in their charging schedules. However, the Secretary of State may direct a charging authority to review said charging schedule if the Secretary of State considers that the economic viability of the development is or will be significantly impaired.

It is truly refreshing to see that there is some vision of treating respective communities as shareholders in their specific areas. However, adding another onion layer in the already chaotic planning system does not seem to be the time and place. The focus on the reform of the planning system should focus on untangling the knots that are already present and injecting it with proper funding.