Developing Consensus is calling for planning to be made one of the North East’s key priorities to attract further investment and development following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The membership organisation, that works to tackle barriers to growth within the region, has highlighted the planning process and collaboration between the public and private sector as a crucial part of the North East’s recovery.
According to data collected by Pegasus Group, as of June 4, out of the 12 North East authorities, five have now progressed with virtual planning committees. In comparison in the North West, where out of 42 LPAs only 4 are not proceeding with virtual or any other form of committees at this time.
Sandra Manson, Senior Director at Pegasus Group, said: “It’s crucial that we pick up the pace and that planning committees embrace and utilise technology to help our region move forward. Whilst we understand there are concerns and challenges regarding IT and the risk of unfair hearing claims, these are all barriers that must be overcome to help our recovery.
“Here at Developing Consensus we want to work alongside LPAs to introduce real practical steps that will support development and existing business on the ground as we come out of lockdown.
“Part of this will also be looking outside the region and taking examples of best practice from around the country. For example, Merseyside Council has introduced a package of temporary measures including refunds of application fees for developers whose schemes begin work within a year of a consent renewal, free pre-application advice and five-year consents for new schemes.”
Most recently, a report released by the Creative Industries Federation found that the architecture sector could take a £1bn hit in 2020 due to the pandemic, with the North East expected to be one of the hardest hit, losing more than a third of its value.
Samantha Curtis, Managing Director of Curtis PDC and Head of the Developing Consensus Planning Group, said: “If we want to shore up future investment and encourage more national and regional businesses to develop within our region, it’s so important that we ensure our planning processes are streamlined, efficient and that best practice is shared amongst local authorities.
“Over the last few months, planning authorities have begun adapting to technology and this has allowed our industry to continue moving forward. Virtual committee meetings have saved time, provided clarity and sped up the overall process, something we’d like to see continued as we move into the new-normal.”
In addition to this, members have highlighted that planning permissions may be a key way in which to help the hospitality industry to recover and social distance effectively.
Gavin Black, Partner at Naylors Gavin Black, said: “If we can make quicker planning decisions, this could be a key factor in the survival of businesses in our hospitality sector.
“To use Grey Street as an example, if more bars and restaurants can get quick approval on pavement licences and introduce outdoor areas to their facilities during the Summer, this could have them open for business a lot sooner.
“Whilst many are viewing the next few months as a time of recovery, it is also a time for opportunity and to really drive forward development through our planning processes within the region.”
The Developing Consensus group has already worked to survey members about important areas for improvement surrounding planning in the region, with the goal of making the process as flexible and proactive as possible.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the membership organisation will continue to work with its local authority partners to ensure the region is sharing best practice around planning processes and continuing to attract development and investment within the area.
To learn more about Developing Consensus and how you can join the membership organisation, click here.
Tim Bailey, Partner at xsite architecture, Samantha Curtis, MD of Curtis PDC, Sandra Manson, Senior Director at Pegasus Group, Gavin Black, Partner at Naylors Gavin Black
June 4, 1.1 Pegasus Group, Covid-19 and LPA Virtual Planning