Is your authority at risk of being designated?

The government’s drive to ensure that local authorities perform their duties as a planning authority in a timely and effective manner sees the ‘special measures’ crew descending on the planning offices of England.

Authorities which fail consistently, risk being ‘designated’, at which point certain applications for planning permission can be made to the Secretary of State; well at least it cuts out the middleman!

From 1 October 2013, the rules for designation have been enacted and, from that time on, authorities will be assessed annually against two tests; speed and quality. In a nutshell any authority which fails the following tests risks being designated:

(a) Determine fewer than 30% of major applications within the statutory period (13 or 16 weeks or any longer period agreed with the applicant); and / or

(b) Has more than 20% of its decisions on major applications overturned at appeal

This badge of shame has already been bestowed on one authority in England – Blaby District Council, with others, including two locally, Fylde and Ribble Valley, sailing very close to the wind.

We have recently noticed that we are receiving more calls from case officers, looking for the applicant to agree to extend the time for determination.

Perhaps this is a willingness to find solutions, or perhaps more cynically it is a desire to avoid the special measures team.

Either way, it is a welcome relief from the recent past where applications would be refused or withdrawals demanded based on a desire not to miss ‘the target date’ and no amount of pleading would secure an extension of time. Amazing how a little change can have such a profound effect.