Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Planning partnership guide to speed up new large scale developments

Planning partnership guide to speed up new large scale developments

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (136) issued by The Government News Network on 6 June 2008

A new guide to speed up planning partnerships between councils and developers was published by Planning Minister, Iain Wright today.

The new 'step by step guide' sets out a logical process for identifying what should be done, when and by whom to reduce problems and speed up new major developments through the planning system.

The voluntary Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) between a local planning authority and an applicant provide a project management framework for handling large and complex planning applications.

All PPAs that meet agreed timetables will be excluded from the standard 13 week decision threshold meaning developers no longer have to worry about target disincentives.

The new guidance also includes good practice examples developed during the pilot study to help achieve successful planning applications.

Last year pilot projects were run which showed that PPAs added value to the planning system by improving the quality and outcomes of the planning approval process.

Iain Wright visited the Stockwell Park PPA pilot scheme in Brixton this week where he discussed the benefits of having a PPA with Council staff and the developer, the Network Housing Group and heard how it helped agree the 550 new home development.

Planning Minister, Iain Wright said:

"The pressures on housing supply and the challenges faced by those involved in delivering high quality, sustainable development continue to increase"

"We are committed to improving the planning processes which is why we introduced Planning Performance Agreements. They make a real difference to bringing forward quality new development through better project management."

"I was particularly impressed how the Planning Performance Agreement in Stockwell Park brought the different groups together and helped empower the community to shape the place they live in.

"The new 'ATLAS guide' will really help developers, local councils and communities create strong planning partnerships that find real solutions to complex planning issues."

Richard Saunders, Case officer for Stockwell Park Estate said:

"The PPA process provided a framework for the efficient handling of the planning application. It enabled both the local authority and applicants to track the application's progress, identify key issues, agree on deadlines and timescales and revise these by agreement if necessary. It provided greater certainty in the process for all concerned."

PPAs formalise the communication process between the local planning authority right through to completion. They help bring about early engagement on projects between partners with more collaborative working, project leadership and community involvement.

This framework commits both parties to an agreed timetable containing 'milestones' including:

* An agreed timetable to replace the standard thirteen weeks target.

* Clarifies in advance what level of evidence, resources and community engagement are required.

* Ensures that all relevant aspects such as sustainability assessments and design standards are properly considered.

* Councils can agree an appropriate charge for providing this service.

Andrew Whitaker, Head of Planning, Home Builders Federation Ltd welcomed the development of PPAs. He said:

"PPAs are a positive tool for genuine partnership working between the private and public sectors ensuring that, for what are often complex development projects in an ever increasingly complex policy environment, the planning process becomes more transparent and timely."

Pilot case studies in detail:

The Stockwell Park and Robsart Village estates development included 550 new homes including 185 replacement homes (164 social rented and 21 'fixed equity' homes); 36 new shared ownership homes; 329 new market homes; and, 491 homes will be refurbished.

The London Borough of Lambeth and the Network Housing Group adopted a PPA approach for a major housing stock transfer project in Stockwell Park in Brixton.

The scheme required approval of an outline planning permission and so the Council decided to hold an 'inception day' which was facilitated by ATLAS. One of the outputs from the day was the production of a detailed project plan covering key issues and timescales which was reviewed and updated at a series of regular meetings.

Dove Lane Project in Bristol is a mixed use development comprising 700 homes, major office and business floor space plus retail, a hotel, and a range of community facilities. Bristol City Council and the development consortium hosted an inception day as part of the PPA process to engage with the local community. It provided a useful forum for sharing information, ideas and opinions and the continued involvement in the project following the signing of the PPA as part of their Community Engagement Strategy.

Guildford Borough Council, Thames Water and Surrey County Council established a PPA for the 'Slyfield' site to build around 1500 new homes with employment uses as well as a locating a new sewage treatments works and waste/recycling facilities. With such a complex project Guildford wanted to bring the key delivery partners together as early as possible and saw the PPA process as an ideal way of achieving this

Lancaster City Council employed a PPA approach to a major extension of its City Centre comprising retail, offices, residential and cultural facilities. The local community was originally sceptical but the City Council and the lead developer jointly agreed some 'Rules of Engagement' and a flexible project plan as part of a Charter.

Notes to Editor

1. New best practice guidance and case studies on Planning Performance Agreements are available at the website of the Advisory Team for Large-scale Applications, http://www.atlasplanning.com

2. Emma Appleton, Head of Enabling, CABE said: "ATLAS involved us in testing and evolving the Guide. From CABE's experience of working on projects through our enabling and design review programmes, getting the process right is imperative. This useful guide promotes better working and true collaborative processes, two ingredients which are crucial to achieving high quality development and lasting places."

3. Phil Kirby, Senior Vice President of POS said: "The Planning Officers Society are very supportive of the ATLAS Guide. We endorse it and encourage our members to adopt the structured, collaborative processes that it promotes".

4. Leonora Rozee OBE, Deputy Chief Exec & Director of Policy at PINS said: "The ATLAS Guide contains a huge amount of well researched and comprehensive information and I'm sure it will become an invaluable, independent and authoritative source of advice and guidance for all involved in dealing with large scale planning projects."


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