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Published 30 January 2014
Pre-application advice has been a cornerstone of the planning process for many years. Early engagement with the Local Planning Authority, key stakeholders and the local community is key to the successful outcome of a planning application.
However, the frustration for many developers has been the inconsistency of approach by individual Councils.
In an attempt to provide a clear framework within which a more efficient and effective pre-application service can be provided the British Property Foundation (BPF) and the Local Government Association (LGA) have this week produced a list of ten commitments.
Whilst there will always be a sigh when yet another piece of non-statutory guidance is produced, the document is endorsed by the five statutory consultees (English Heritage, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, the Highways Agency and Natural England) as well as several large local authorities including London Borough of Croydon, Essex County Council and Bristol City Council. A number of case studies are highlighted to demonstrate what effective pre-application engagement can deliver.
The list contains much advice that is not new, but there are a couple of points that should hearten us all on the provider side of the industry. Commitment 6 spells out the importance of an open exchange of information. I know of at least one authority in London that does not share details of its viability advice notwithstanding requiring the developer to submit theirs. Commitment 8 seeks to involve local councillors at the pre-application stage. How often are we told that Members cannot get involved at this stage as this might prejudice their position when determining the proposal? Yet they are arguably some of the most important people in the process. They act as the voice of their electorate and ultimately they are usually the decision makers.
So, not a panacea for all of the woes of the pre-application process but a worthy step in the right direction.