I received an email from a project team member recently in respect of a development proposal which appears to have got caught up in a miasma of post-committee resolution inaction. It was late on a Friday, and they wrote;
“...its all very well the Government championing their pro growth planning policies and how this is going to kick start development but it all falls to pieces when you come to come to deal with it at a local level because;
(a) there aren't sufficient qualified LPA staff to deal with matters (because of the cuts ), and
(b) those that are there seem to lack the motivation to get things done”
It’s a common refrain from the development sector. It’s one thing Government saying they are pro-growth, but what does that mean in respect of individual applications on the ground?
Well it looks like my erstwhile colleague has had their voice heard (in part), because the Government, through the Planning Inspectorate, has now issued a ‘model policy’ which it expects Local Plans to adopt to explain what positive planning is, and how the ‘presumption in favour’ will work in practice. The policy (which is a bit cumbersome, but worth stating in full) says;
"When considering development proposals the Council will take a positive approach that reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework. It will always work proactively with applicants jointly to find solutions which mean that proposals can be approved wherever possible, and to secure development that improves the economic, social and environmental conditions in the area
Planning applications that accord with the policies in this Local Plan (and, where relevant, with polices in neighbourhood plans) will be approved without delay, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
Where there are no policies relevant to the application or relevant policies are out of date at the time of making the decision then the Council will grant permission unless material considerations indicate otherwise – taking into account whether:
· Any adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole; or
· Specific policies in that Framework indicate that development should be restricted.”
So, now we know what it means, although as with most guidance it may mean all things to all men, and quite how this addresses the resourcing issue, and the motivation issue, is to be resolved. But at least we all now understand what the Government’s intention is, and hopefully, with all this proactive working – we can speed up decision making and inject some much needed vigour into the economy.
Keith Fenwick – Director, Birmingham