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How To Fix Planning


A guest article from our friend and planning expert, Jonathan McDermott on why planning processes across the country are so slow and what needs to be done. 

The Problem & the Solution 

Today's missive is a small reflection on the state of Local Planning Authorities at the moment. 

There is not a Local Planning Authority (LPA - technospeak for the team within a local council who manage and process planning applications) we work with that is not massively behind with their casework at the moment. From Portsmouth to Cheshire West and Chester we are seeing massive delays in the system.

I am told that even the home of the Planning Inspectorate - Bristol cannot keep up with the work. 

What is happening is a result of massive under-funding within the planning system that goes back decades. Planning is always one of the first departments under the knife when times are hard and yes one of the last departments to get recruitment when times are less so. 

Historically we have got surplus planners in from outside the UK from countries with a compatible planning system such as Australia and New Zealand. However, restrictions on travel over the last two years have put pay to that. What little home grown talent we have has dissipated off into early retirement or, such as myself, the Private Sector. 

So if the issue is simply people and time then what can we as applicants and agents do about it?

The answer is glaringly simple! Learn the rules like a pro! If you are able to learn and follow the rules within your target authority then you will find a more painless journey through the planning system awaits. 

Planners at Council hate reinventing reasons to decide planning applications and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill makes clear that we are heading for a more rules based system where the ability to find flexibility will be reduced. There are even punishments being proposed for retrospective planning applications including double fee's in line with Enforcement Appeals. 

What is clear to me is that this will change the role of the planner at Council to one of a technician within an expert system rather than an expert within a sea of experts. Whilst this will enable more people to work in the system and address the backlog it will mean that knowing the rules will be critical. 

V is for Verify after all! 

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