Published by kind permission of North East Times.

To make the planning system more efficient and to speed up the process of unlocking development opportunities, the Developing Consensus Planning Group recommends improvements to the pre-application process.

To speed up the process of unlocking development opportunities, the Developing Consensus (DC) Planning Group recommends improvements to make it more transparent and reliable so that more speculative development would come forward across the region.

Moreover, it seems reasonable to assume that if there were more certainty about quantum and use-of-land at the pre-application stage (Pre-App), more investment would be made more quickly in development in the region.

The planning group recommends the introduction of an Early Assessment Triangle covering a consensus on-site evaluation, clarity on crucial policy requirements and an outline of key development requirements.

Conversations with local planning authorities (LPA) about the long-term needs and potential of our region are required to find potential benefits that help stakeholders put the short-term and local interests aside.

This would prompt some consolidation and connection, enabling some lightweight work on the relatively small number of things that might make a major difference in identifying and exploiting an opportunity.

The aim is to help establish a planning framework that could facilitate and support investment.

If the development industry made clear the implications of uncertainty, slow or poor performance of the planning process through local authorities, this might be an encouragement for Government to respect the power of the process to drive the economy.

It may also provide the right encouragement to ring-fence planning fees for investment in planning teams within LPAs.

Conversations with one council have assisted with the revised Pre-App charging schedule.

It was recommended that there should be an opportunity for strategic discussions or in principle discussions, which included representatives from economic development and regeneration to be able to establish the potential of sites quickly. This has been accepted and a format for

‘Pre- Pre App’ discussions to take place is being worked up.

While the DC planning group cannot directly influence the perceived issues with the wider national planning system, it can work closely with the seven LPAs to address local procedural constraints which restrict delivery.

The DC planning group hopes the next steps are to meet with the head of planning at each LPA. The group will facilitate a substantive debate between the various interested parties about the long-term opportunities for the region outside the limiting political framework in each authority.

Alongside professional institutes, industry bodies, lobby groups and higher education institutions – where research and innovative thinking is currently taking place – Developing Consensus will collaborate on findings and prepare a ‘North East Open for Business’ paper that sets out planning objectives for each LPA from the collective point of view of the DC membership.

It is the DC Planning Group’s intention to continue to meet and update this position statement with progress on a minimum of an annual basis.

Developing Consensus
Author: Tim Bailey (XsiteArchitecture).
Other working group members are Gerald Hall (Mableson Hall), Helen Marks (Lambert Smith Hampton),
Sam Curtis (Curtis PDC), Adam Heather (DWF) and Colin Haylock (Haylock Planning and Design).