The Government has announced further details of its “Planning Guarantee” – first trailed in the document “Planning for growth” published with the Budget during the spring. Also revealed are details of measures to reduce the amount of information required with planning applications.

The Guarantee will, it appears, establish time limits within which applications should be dealt with by LPAs and PINS. There are different possibilities. One approach would be to set a maximum period for LPAs to determine applications. This would not alter the 8 or 13 week rules, but would establish absolute limits in order to meet the 12 month Guarantee.  

The Government currently envisages that the clock would start ticking at the moment when a valid application is received by the LPA, and stop at the point of determination. It would then start again upon validation of an appeal, before stopping, again, upon determination. For non-determination cases, the clock would continue to run into the appeal phase.  

Excluded from the Guarantee would be any period when “progress on an application is not in the control of decision takers; principally pre-application discussions, and the period between a refusal and any decision by an applicant to appeal.” Applications subject to planning performance agreements might also be excluded.  

Consultation in the autumn will deal with measures “to improve the timeliness of decisions, and to deal with specific cases where the 12 month Guarantee is not met.”  

As to reducing the amount of information submitted with planning applications the Government “would like to stimulate discussion […] ahead of detailed consultation in the autumn.” In particular it invites views on the following matters:  

  • “What information really helps people to understand the nature and potential impact of development proposals - and what doesn't?”
  • “What information is really necessary to determine, in each case, a full, outline, or reserved matters planning application?”
  • “What is the right balance between national consistency and local flexibility in respect of information requirements? How can central government help to achieve this?”  
  • “Should the existing suite of Standard Application Forms (1APP) be shortened, and if so, how?”

Both the Planning Guarantee and proposals dealing with the submission of information will be subject to full consultation in the autumn. In the meantime, the Government invites comments by 31 August.

Both initiatives should be welcomed by the industry. The devil, though, will be in the detail. In particular, the effectiveness of the 12 month Guarantee - an ambitious but highly constructive proposal - will depend upon effective sanctions for failures to comply. On the other hand the risk of such sanctions is that they could lead to a higher number of refusals, particular given the current under-resourcing of planning departments, as LPAs struggle to meet tight deadlines. Such a result would be unfortunate.