Why are Planning Performance Agreements an increasingly necessary tool for planning applications?
Principal Planner, Ben Pridgeon, discusses the use of Planning Performance Agreements and why they are becoming increasingly important in planning applications.
We are no strangers to delays to planning applications. Local Planning Authorities are chronically underfunded and under resourced and this shows little sign of abating. Most applications are not determined on time, with planning officers often being unresponsive and difficult to contact. I have sympathy for their predicament and have time for those officers who communicate to us regularly on timescales to determination - even if the news is not good.
In these straightened times, Bidwells’ planning team has turned to more imaginative ways of seeking timely permissions with greater certainty over outcome.
Bidwells’ planning team has increasingly used Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) to ensure that officers and planning authorities have the resources they need to determine applications on time.
PPAs are a project management tool which allows all parties to agree timescales, actions and resources for handling planning applications. PPAs are usually agreed at the pre-application stage and relate to the whole development process. This may comprise pre-application planning advice, community engagement and application progress meetings through to the post decision stage, which includes discharge of conditions and site monitoring. PPAs can be used for most type of planning applications but are particularly effective for major and complex applications.
A charge is payable for PPAs which may be calculated by the size of the development, what is covered by the Agreement or a percentage of the planning application fee. This may add to project costs but is money well-spent if it means getting the spade in the ground more quickly. Our experience is that larger developers are more than willing to pay the fee if it means matters are expedited.
The Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service has used PPAs to great effect and our experience has been largely positive. Regular readers will know of Bidwells’ success in securing planning permission for the mixed-use development at Devonshire Gardens, Cambridge, which was subject to a PPA. This mandated milestones throughout the project and was able to resource an appropriately experienced planning officer who determined the planning application within the agreed timescale. The experience was positive, the Officer pragmatic and the PPA provided the financial resource for the Council to deliver a timely planning permission.
Not every planning application is suitable for a PPA, but for larger and more complex schemes I would recommend considering one. Planning is probably the greatest time and financial risk to any development and getting certainty over these variables is important. PPAs aren’t perfect, but they do give the traction to hold the Planning Authority to account if timescales slip or they are not performing as they should.
Time is money, as they say. PPAs are a useful tool for managing both.