The Planning Delivery Agreements are designed to give greater certainty to developers on the handling of their applications, provide a project management framework for local authorities and ensure that local communities are properly consulted early on in the process.

Developers, local planning authorities and other stakeholders would have to work together under the pilots with a commitment to an agreed project plan. The plan would set out a defined timeframe for a decision, highlight the resources and community engagements required, and ensure that sustainability and design standards are properly considered.

The project plan would have to be drawn up at the pre-application stage and would propose a timetable for how long it would take to process the application, what is expected of the developer and when, and what they can expect from the local authority.

Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper said that too often very large applications take a long time to sort out, creating uncertainty for both developers and the local community.

“The planning system needs to do more to support sustainable development. By improving the process for handling these applications PDAs will help to make the planning system more efficient so that community groups and developers alike know what the timetable is and where they stand,” she said.

The pilot schemes have already been given the support of the British Property Federation whose Chief Executive Liz Peace urged other members of the development community to enter into these pilots with enthusiasm.

The Government has tried to reassure those who believe this is a way of fast-tracking unsuitable applications by saying the PDAs will not alter the outcome of decisions, but that each case will be considered on its merits and that all current safeguards will remain in place.

Following the pilot schemes an evaluation will inform future decisions on the use of PDAs, which will also assess possible incentives for local authorities to take part.

David Hopkins

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