Business to benefit from planning system shake-up | 03 December 08

DEVELOPERS and businesses are set to get a much-needed boost from new proposals to radically overhaul the planning system, a leading property lawyer has said.

A major new report co-authored by former Barratt Developments chief executive David Pretty has outlined measures that could save up to £300m a year by cutting red tape on planning applications.

The Government-commissioned Killian Pretty Review recommends steps including reducing the number of planning conditions, cutting application requirements and taking almost half of minor commercial applications out of the system altogether.

Neil Robson, head of property and planning at North law firm Ward Hadaway, says the measures will make “a major improvement” to the planning process and produce benefits for businesses and local authorities.

Mr Robson said: “There is no doubt that the planning process in its current state is slow, bureaucratic and causes problems for both developers and councils so any changes brought in to speed up the process are very welcome.

“Whilst still allowing objectors to have their say, the proposals outlined in the Killian Pretty Review add up to a major improvement to the system, something which is needed more than ever in the current economic climate.”

The review recommendations include:

  • removing almost 40% of minor applications for small scale alterations and extensions from the planning process
  • improving the pre-application phase, particularly for major developments, to iron out key issues so once permission is granted, development can follow much quicker
  • reducing the amount of information and paperwork required for applications
  • reducing the number of conditions attached to individual planning permissions
  • making planning obligation agreements clearer and faster

Review authors David Pretty and Essex County Council chief executive Joanna Killian say the measures will free up resources to concentrate on larger developments, save businesses and the economy £230m a year and local authorities £70m a year.

It should also improve the international status of the UK’s planning regime, currently ranked 61st in the world by The World Bank, below countries including Mauritius, Armenia and Namibia.

Neil Robson, who was consulted as part of the Review in his role as a member of the Law Society’s National Planning and Environmental Law Committee, said the emphasis on improving the pre-application phase of the planning process was particularly welcome.

Mr Robson said: “In our experience at Ward Hadaway, pre-application talks between developers, local authorities and consultees are a crucial factor in deciding the success or otherwise of projects, particularly when it comes to major developments.

“If we can iron out key issues quicker before an application is put in, as well as getting clearer and faster agreements on obligations such as Section 106 agreements, then many of the delays which currently frustrate developers and postpone projects will disappear.

“This will be good news not only for developers and businesses, but also for local authorities who will be able to save valuable resources on processing applications and could see their local economies boosted by major developments potentially taking shape quicker than before.”

The Government has said it supports “the broad thrust” of the Killian Pretty Review and will publish more details on how it plans to implement the recommendations early in the New Year.

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