BLOG: Pros and cons of the planning process

02 November 2018

Experienced Planning Consultant Roger Coy discusses the pros and cons of the present planning process   

When it was introduced the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was promoted on the basis it would make the planning process simpler and easier to understand since large volumes of legislation would be reduced to a few pages. 

For those involved in the industry, the consensus of opinion after a period of reflection is that it has had the opposite effect. 

However, it is not all doom and gloom because if it is correctly implemented, there should be significant consideration and protection for our national capital and environmental assets which is definitely to be commended. 

Not too long ago, an architect with an understanding of the planning process would have been accountable for the majority of his clients’ professional development fees. 

Today it is more likely that he or she will be responsible for around 50% with the remainder made up of an endless list of consultants who all want to be part of the process. 

It is all very well to appoint additional professional consultants to contribute to planning proposals but their reports then have to be scrutinised by yet more consultants appointed on behalf of the local authority. 

This is a time-consuming process when often, and perhaps inevitably, there is going to be a difference of opinion where facts and figures are disputed incurring yet more study, time and expense. 

If you are able to achieve planning permission, it is not unusual to find a long list of planning conditions that all need discharging which then take the form of another or indeed a series of additional applications needing approval before work can commence. 

Once again, this is time consuming and expensive, and while every effort is made to reduce the impact of conditions by further consultation it doesn’t remove the requirement for formal discharge often before any work can start on site. 

If the present planning process is not sufficient to put clients off then there is always the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). This has recently been introduced and adopted by most local authorities and as professionals we have now effectively become tax collectors, something none of us expected or signed up for. 

The CIL process can add considerably to the planning professional’s workload and the financial burden on most forms of residential development unless the client qualifies for an exemption and, not unsurprisingly, most clients wish to avoid the charge wherever possible. 

This process suits major housing developers but it is much more of a headache for householders and smaller developers and it is seriously impacting upon the financial viability of their projects even if planning permission has been given. 

For planning professionals it’s all about assessing and managing risk in an atmosphere of uncertainty. 

With so many participants in the planning process from those involved at a local level through to the consultants, we all have a responsibility as agents to try and carve our way through the system on the best path we can find that will deliver the desired result in the best time possible at the most competitive rate. Simplification has brought complication. 

We have a great team at the Roger Coy Partnership who have the expertise to explain to clients everything that is involved in the planning process and we are with our clients every step of the way from our initial discussions to when the final planning decision is made including representations to the planning committee.