Friday, 6 February 2015

Speeding up the planning process

Would you like to guess how long it takes to get planning permission for a 50 home development? Have in mind that the target for major applications is 8 weeks, which increases to 13 weeks for EIA development.
Research undertaken in 2013 concluded that across the Barratt Group it took an average of 22 weeks to get an application approved by a Committee, with a further 20 weeks required for S106 Agreement negotiations and the satisfaction of pre-commencement conditions.
I could write a very extensive piece about the influences upon the submission and determination of an application, and would probably end up concluding that any procedural efficiencies would be offset by the diminishing number of experienced, talented planners to implement them, but will settle today for a couple of ideas that I might submit to the inevitable review that the next Government will undertake 'on speeding up the planning process'.
Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) are often touted as the solution to this problem, and they are a sound enough concept, but in my experience the agreement is solely with the planning department and are not an incentive themselves to other council departments, let alone external consultees, who the Development Control manager has little control over. More often than not it is the other council departments and external consultees that can hold up the application process. A PPA needs, therefore, to incentivise and obligate everybody involved in the process.

If those other departments and agencies cannot be incentivised then how about getting applicants to gather all pre-app consultation themselves and, provided the scheme in question has not changed, making that pre-app consultation time-limited (say six months) so that it can be used by the planning department to determine the application without the need to formally reconsult again. If the consultee, who would still be notified, wants to change their mind they can, but the onus would be on them to change their initial view rather than to provide one.

Sensible, practical and so probably unattainable.

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