Are your projects suffering Planning delays?
Well, you are not alone! We have put together a helpful checklist for developers, to help give their planning application the best chance of being determined in a timely manner. We also identify the options available should significant planning delays occur.
Whilst there are statutory timescales which state that local planning authorities should determine planning applications within 8 weeks (minor development), 13 weeks (major development), or 16 weeks (where the application is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment), due to a range of factors including lack of planning staff, increases in the number of applications being submitted, certain authorities rescinding their pre-application service, these timescales are rarely being achieved at present.
Matthew Keys of Sancus spoke with planning consultant Jamie Pyper from nineteen47 to get a better insight into current timescales and how to manage these as best as possible:
“Despite best endeavours to address all issues prior to an application being submitted, due to the delays in planning departments receiving statutory consultation responses from those outside of their departments, together with a seemingly high turnover of staff, it is becoming increasingly rare that planning applications are being determined within the statutory deadlines. This can be very frustrating to deal with and a challenge to manage and it is very important that applicants are approaching the planning application process with their eyes open to this widespread issue.”
Jamie Pyper, nineteen47
6 things to consider to give you the best chance of avoiding the planning stage causing delay to your project:
- Check the checklist – Ensure that your planning application is comprehensive and satisfies the local planning authorities’ validation checklist. If the LPA is not satisfied with the content of the planning application, they will not validate it and this will add delays to the overall process.
- Pre-application advice and Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) – Consider entering into pre-application discussions with the LPA to identify and address any issues prior to a formal submission being made. Where you are aware that there are specific issues, make it clear that you would like the relevant consultee to provide comments as part of the enquiry. On larger applications, consider entering into a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) with the Local Planning Authority where they offer this service. This could allow for timescales to be agreed with the Local Planning Authority at the outset and ensure a greater degree of collaboration between the parties in achieving prescribed deadlines. The PPA will cost money but could save valuable weeks/months in getting the application determined.
- Community engagement – Where it is considered that proposals may be contentious or spark public interest, consider engagement with locals, key stakeholders, Parish and Ward councillors prior to an application being submitted. This will provide opportunity to explain the proposals in a positive manner and obtain feedback prior to a formal submission being made. Often specific local concerns will be highlighted that can then be considered and addressed within the planning application.
- Application monitoring – Once the planning application has been validated, regularly check online to review if consultation responses have been received and if these raise any issues or concerns, address these promptly. Similarly, try to establish dialogue with the planning officer at an early stage and keep in regular contact. If they request any further information or have queries, it is important to respond quickly to these as the submission of further information can often trigger a re-consultation beyond the initial 21 day consultation period.
- Limit conditions where possible – Where conditions are recommended by consultees or the planning officer, pay particular attention to those which require discharging prior to development commencing. These have the potential to add delays once permission has been granted since they will require formal discharge which is most likely to take several months. Question whether these conditions need to be ‘pre-commencement conditions’ or could be reworded to a later stage in development such as ‘prior to works commencing above slab’ or even ‘prior to occupation.’ If there is time available, consider submitting the required information before the application is determined as it may be possible to address these requirements and avoid these conditions being imposed.
- Engage early on S106 – If a Section106 legal agreement is necessary to secure a specific requirement or developer contributions, consider having your lawyer engage with the Council’s legal team at an early stage. Where a s106 is necessary, planning permission will not be issued until this has been drafted and signed by all parties.
It is also worth pointing out the actions you can take, should the application remain undetermined for long periods of time:
- Consider appealing – Where an application has gone beyond the statutory 8 or 13 week target period and no extension of time has been sought by the LPA, it is possible to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of Non-Determination within 6 months of validation. However, be aware that the planning appeal process is also suffering from significant delays with latest figures suggesting that on average written representation appeals are taking 36 weeks, hearings 47 weeks and inquiries 42 weeks. The other point to consider is that such appeals tend to force the LPA into finding fault with the proposals to defend their position when it is possible that the application may eventually been approved had the appeal not been submitted.
- Request a refund – Where a planning application has not been determined within a 6 month period and the LPA have not sought an extension of time, under the Planning Guarantee, it is possible to request that the planning application fee is refunded.
Jamie concluded by stating, “The planning system has become increasingly complex and difficult to manage. A planning consultant will assist in managing the process and help in minimising delays as far as possible as well as improving the prospects of success”
Prepared in collaboration with Jamie Pyper of nineteen47
Formed in 2015, nineteen47 provide planning consultancy and urban design services across England, Wales and Scotland. With offices in York, Sheffield and Midlands, they work across a breadth of sectors including residential, commercial, education, hospitality and leisure. For further information please go online at www.nineteen47.co.uk or call a member of the team on 0330 818 1947