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A Brief History of Planning Permission

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Birmingham Museums Trust
The concept of planning permission in the UK isn't something that just popped up overnight. It has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century and has been evolving ever since. So, let's journey back in time and take a look at how planning permission has developed over the years.
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Early Roots

Before the 19th century, there was virtually no planning law. Landowners largely had free rein over their land and could build as they pleased. However, as the Industrial Revolution saw the rapid expansion of towns and cities, problems arose. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and the indiscriminate mixing of industrial and residential buildings led to significant public health issues.

The Public Health Act of 1875 was one of the first significant pieces of legislation that began to impose some controls over development, particularly concerning sanitation. However, this Act was far from the planning permission system we know today.

Birth of Modern Planning Laws

The real turning point came in the 20th century, particularly in the aftermath of the two World Wars, which left Britain needing substantial rebuilding and reshaping. In response to this, the government introduced the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947.

This Act is widely seen as the birth of the modern system of planning permission in the UK. It established the principle that landowners had to get permission from the state (via their local planning authority) to carry out development of land and buildings.

The Growth of the Planning System

Since 1947, the planning system has continually evolved, with numerous updates and amendments being made to respond to changing societal needs and government policy. For instance, in the 1960s and 70s, growing concern about the protection of the countryside and historic buildings led to stricter planning controls in these areas.

In 1990, the planning system was consolidated into what's known as the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which, along with the Planning Act 2008, serves as the foundation of the current planning system.

The introduction of the concept of 'sustainable development' in the late 20th and early 21st century has also had a significant influence on planning policy. This has led to a greater emphasis on issues such as energy efficiency, protection of biodiversity, and minimising the impacts of climate change in the decision-making process.

The Planning System Today

Today, the planning system in the UK is a sophisticated one that balances a range of competing interests. It seeks to support economic growth and housebuilding, while also protecting the environment and the character and amenity of our towns, cities, and countryside.

Despite its complexity, the planning permission process plays a crucial role in shaping the places where we live, work and play. It’s a system that has been almost two centuries in the making and continues to evolve in response to changing societal needs and government policy.

And there you have it - a whistle-stop tour through the history of planning permission. It's a history that reminds us of the importance of managing development in a thoughtful and balanced way, respecting the needs of both current and future generations.

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FAQs

Q: When did the concept of planning permission first emerge in the UK?

A: The concept of planning permission emerged in the UK during the 19th century.

Q: What were some of the major factors that led to the introduction of planning permission laws?

A: Major factors that led to the introduction of planning permission laws included rapid urbanization, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and the need to address public health issues during the Industrial Revolution.

Q: How did the Public Health Act of 1875 contribute to the development of planning permission?

A: The Public Health Act of 1875 played a significant role in establishing some controls over development, particularly concerning sanitation. While not directly related to planning permission as we know it today, it marked an early step in the regulation of development.

Q: Which landmark legislation is considered the birth of the modern planning permission system in the UK?

A: The Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 is widely considered the birth of the modern planning permission system in the UK. It introduced the principle that landowners needed permission from the local planning authority to carry out development.

Q: How did the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 impact the planning permission process?

A: The Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 had a transformative impact on the planning permission process. It established a comprehensive framework for land use planning and development control, requiring individuals and organizations to seek permission for various types of development.

Q: What were some significant changes or amendments made to the planning permission system in the 1960s and 70s?

A: In the 1960s and 70s, concerns about the protection of the countryside and historic buildings led to stricter planning controls in these areas. This period saw the introduction of legislation to preserve heritage sites and safeguard rural landscapes.

Q: How has the concept of sustainable development influenced the planning permission process in recent years?

A: The concept of sustainable development has had a significant influence on the planning permission process. It has led to a greater emphasis on issues such as energy efficiency, environmental impact assessment, and promoting development that balances social, economic, and environmental considerations.

Q: What are some key features of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in relation to planning permission?

A: The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is a key piece of legislation that forms the foundation of the current planning permission system in the UK. It sets out the powers and responsibilities of local planning authorities and outlines the procedures for granting or refusing planning permission.

Q: How has the planning permission process evolved to address environmental concerns and climate change impacts?

A: The planning permission process has evolved to address environmental concerns and climate change impacts. It includes considerations such as promoting sustainable construction practices, reducing carbon emissions, protecting habitats and biodiversity, and encouraging energy-efficient design.

Q: What role does the planning permission system play in balancing economic growth and the protection of the environment and local character?

A: The planning permission system plays a crucial role in balancing economic growth with the protection of the environment and local character. It seeks to ensure that development is conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner, taking into account the needs of current and future generations, and preserving the unique qualities of different areas across the UK.

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