The current planning committee cycle is not fit for purpose and often causes delay to applications. In the short-term there needs to be more delegated authority to officers to determine applications, particularly with regards to Reserved Matters. In the longer term, to allow time for recruitment, there also needs to be more use of Planning Performance Agreements to enable specific staff resource for projects. This could be resourced from within a council or through external consultants and not only applies to planning support but also technical expertise.
Schemes aren’t being delivered as quickly as they need to be. To accelerate this, St. Modwen would be supportive of increasing planning application fees to an appropriate proportionate fee if it leads to mutually agreeable timeframes for the planning process. While it would be a cost burden to housebuilders, we believe that it could lead to a faster planning process, benefiting local areas as well as the industry.
Too often schemes that have a draft allocation in a local plan, where principle of development is accepted, are refused once an application is submitted. This could be avoided through more regular and effective community engagement at an earlier stage and would therefore speed up delivery, and so we believe that for some schemes the public should be involved early in, and throughout, plan making so they understand the process.
Local Planning Authorities need to be given clear direction on what housing and employment needs they need to meet. There are currently too many plans being held up in the hope that numbers will be reduced. Establishing a clearer focus and set housing targets will be a key way of tackling this problem and improving the current delays.
Dave Smith, managing director of St. Modwen Homes, comments:“There is an urgent need for new homes in the UK, but unfortunately the current planning process is not fit for purpose and is heavily under resourced. Instead of helping to accelerate growth and development, the planning process often leads to delays, leaving sought-after schemes at a standstill. We have set out several ways to unlock this progress, including investing in local authority planning teams, encouraging more awareness of schemes and better direction on local requirements.”