Headlines: January 25th, 2006

Local authorities are to take part in a series of pilot projects intended to improve and speed up the planning process for larger and more complex developments. The new Planning Delivery Agreement schemes aim to give greater certainty to developers over the handling of their applications and to offer local councils a management framework.Under the 22 pilots, local planning authorities will work with developers, and other stakeholders with a commitment to an agreed project plan that will set out a timeframe for a decision. It will also highlight the resources needed and the requirement for community engagement with the object of ensuring that sustainability and design standards are properly considered.

The pilots have been developed by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in partnership with the Planning Advisory Service and the Advisory Team for Large Applications. Schemes in this pilot phase range from city centre redevelopment in Leeds through a new supermarket in the Wyre Forest District Council area of Worcestershire, housing developments in a number of areas to a new Earth Sciences block for Oxford University and a plan for wind turbines to be dealt with by Newark and Sherwood District Council in Nottinghamshire.

The pilot programme will begin with introductory workshops run by PAS, ATLAS and the ODPM to outline the project and the function of the Planning Delivery Agreements. The second stage involves further commitment form participants and agreements drawn up by the Planning Advisory Service. Following the pilot schemes there will be an evaluation that will inform future decisions on the use of the Agreements. It will also assess possible incentives for local authorities to take part.

The ODPM said that while PDAs would improve and speed up the process for determining large applications, they would not alter the outcome of decisions. All of the current safeguards in the planning system will remain in place.