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Simplify the planning system

Comment 1st July 2010

I work as an architect nationwide in a large practice.  The planning system has a significant impact on our work and it’s smooth operation is vital to our operations and indeed our profitability and survival as a business.  It is also vital to the country, especially at a time of economic problems, that decisions are made swiftly and at minimal cost to everyone involved, including the public purse.

The planning process, from our perspective, has become increasingly difficult over the last decade.  The introduction of fees and later of targets, has not eased the process from our point of view and we often find ourselves trapped in between the demands of our clients on the one hand and the planners on the other.  

The cost of making a planning application is now so high, because of the time scale required to put an appllication together and the vast number of reports and information required to enable a decision – that it has become beyond the reach of many private clients who cannot afford to venture into the system at huge personal cost, when the outcome is so uncertain.

Simplify the whole system.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Expand the scope of permitted development.
  • Introduce a "rules" based system where any proposal complying with the rules can be automatically permitted.
  • As in much of Europe any design submitted by a qualified architect should be deemed approved from a "design" perspective.
  • Introduce Local Development Orders to cover all main development sites with a set of criteria to be followed.  Any proposal complying with the criteria would be deemed approved.
  • Similarly – define rules within Local Plans whereby compliance deems approval.
  • Having introduced a predominantly rules based system – private sector planners could be engaged to run the system and manage the process.  The democratic element of planning would be in approving and determining the rules in the first place.
  • Many apoplications are stalled awaiting consultees responses.  Where consultees fail to respond – and indeed where the Planning Authority fails to make a decision in the proscribed time – an application should be deemed approved.

Why does this matter?

We cannot afford as a country to allow a beaurocratic process to hinder development.  The planning process should encourage all forms of development which are vital for the economic health of the country.  Construction would be helped, and new homes and businesses built.

We need to streamilne the whole planning process to accelerate and encourage development.

There is definite need – for example the 3 million homes we are expected to require by 2020 – so as money eases we must do everything we can to encourage developers to get on with it, rather than putting them off.

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