The Environment Agency is currently consulting on its proposal to offer “paid for” planning advice to developers proposing to undertake complex or large scale developments in England. The service is aimed at providing additional assistance at the pre-application stage but will be entirely voluntary and the Environment Agency is keen to point out that it will not be imposing any charged service on any other developers.

Initially, the Environment Agency intends to enter into only a small number of agreements for complex developments which it considers will benefit most from those services. The Agency is categorising a complex development as being one which;-

  • has an area of is greater than 10 hectares,
  • will have an impact on strategic areas of environmental sensitivity or sites where there are many constraints to be resolved, or proposals involving significant offsite improvements; and
  • require an Environmental Impact Assessment to be submitted under Schedule 1 of the Town and Country Planning (EIA) Regulations 2011.

The Environment Agency intends to appoint a project manager for each scheme (and a project team where appropriate) who could act as a single point of contact to coordinate Environment Agency related issues, data requests or technical document review. The proposal is currently to charge a rate of £125 per annum (which reflects the pre-application advice charges under the Environmental Permitting Regime).

The Environment Agency will, however, continue to provide a free service for all developments irrespective of scale and complexity but if a developer is interested in the additional service a pre application agreement will be entered into which will set out what services the Environment Agency will be providing, how much will be charged for these services, the payment terms, how the Environment Agency will provide its services, agree tasks and a timetable to take the proposed development project forward.