Roger Hepher, hgh Executive Director, suggest seven strategies to help speed up the planning process.
The Chancellor made much in his Autumn Statement about the measures he was taking to speed up the planning system.
The many sceptics amongst us will immediately have recognised the snake oil that was probably being sold. The recently increased application fees will not be ringfenced to better resource planning departments; the additional £32m pledged to local planning authorities might or might not end up on the front line. However, even if it does, it is unclear when it will do so, and approximately £100,000 per local planning authority will not pay for more than a couple of planning officers each. The proposal that applicants for major development might pay more for a prompt service (and get a refund if they don’t receive it) sounds like a restatement of Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) and the Planning Guarantee, both of which already exist and frankly don’t deliver all that was intended.
However, there certainly are things applicants can do to speed up the planning process. We employ a wide range of strategies, of which these are a few:
- Choose a planning consultant who knows key individuals within the local planning authority concerned, and who is a good people person. Planning officers are human, and though they work within an over-burdened and bureaucratic system, they may well be willing to give some informal priority to someone they know and respect;
- Make life easy for the planners: present application material clearly and succinctly, and feed them with copy that can readily be pasted into a Committee report;
- Engage in pre-application consultation with the Council. Although often a frustratingly slow process, it gives you a great opportunity to establish the issues and how the planners are thinking about them, as well as to establish a personal relationship with the people who may well eventually handle your planning application. Forewarned is forearmed, and if you can make sure you are covering all the bases in your application, you will reduce the potential for having to commission further expert work or even withdraw the application. There are sometimes ways we can speed up the process;
- Enter into a PPA. PPAs are far from perfect vehicles, but they do focus minds and they put the applicant into a morally stronger position to press for performance;
- Anticipate in advance people/organisations who may object or raise issues, and head them off in advance by talking to them. You might not be able to avoid them getting involved, but at least you will be able to avoid being caught off-guard;
- Consult with statutory consultees (e.g. Natural England, National Highways) as early as possible as you prepare the application. Delays in such consultees responding to the Council’s formal consultation are often a source of delay;
- Consider twin-tracking: i.e. submitting two applications, one to be appealed at the end of the statutory determination period, and one that can remain on the table with the local planning authority. Even if you don’t twin-track, make a diary note to at least consider appealing once 8/13/16 weeks has elapsed.
Image: Matthias Speicher on Unsplash