12 Feb The pathway in planning
It is no secret that planning is a complex subject. Developers can experience a number of delays, be faced with a lack of clarity and find that there is a great deal of inconsistency between one cycle to the next. It is difficult to say whether there will be any significant changes in the next year, but it is clear that a few small adjustments can have a huge impact on user experience.
One of the key issues is around process inefficiency for smaller applications. Planning consultants are overwhelmed with requests on a day-to-day basis and it is generally accepted that a large proportion of those are relatively straight forward and could become a ‘box ticking’ exercise. To ease the burden, there needs to be a level of automation implemented and so, technology will be key to transforming the way planning departments perform.
Whilst better technology and automation will be a great help in some areas of planning, it is also important to acknowledge that developments are incredibly complex and so, being able to talk to someone with the right knowledge and expertise is invaluable. Having a proper conversation with planning professionals seems incredibly challenging and is one of the most common frustrations. With automated email responses and recorded messages, it is virtually impossible to obtain a direct answer to a simple question and this creates delays. Furthermore, when you finally get the chance to speak to someone, it is rare that it will always be the same person. Planning departments suffer from a great deal of inconsistency due to the high turnover of staff which leads to significant knowledge gaps. There is undoubtedly an element of ‘doubling up involved’ and with no one to take the lead, it is no surprise that it takes so long for applications to pass.
In addition to process changes, planning departments are also relatively slow to implement new schemes. The introduction of permitted development rights generated a number of opportunities particularly because there was so much unused office space. Fast forward to now and there has been a noticeable increase in the number of vacancies in retail town centres. At the moment planning policy is still very protective of that but if we see a loosening of these restrictions, it could kick in a huge amount activity opening opportunities up which have never been seen before.
It feels ambitious to expect a great deal of change from planning departments but, being aware of some of the pitfalls means that people can help prepare for them. To see the full discussion, click above.