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Fast Track Planning

Alex Ground, planning lawyer at Russell Cooke LLP, comments

The news that Westminster council has sought permission from the Treasury to accept cash payments from property developers to reach a decision about their applications faster puts the spotlight once again on the complex and time-consuming process of obtaining planning permission in central London. Delay in processing applications can be costly, sometimes putting businesses on hold for months. Are the new proposals a workable and fair step forward to speed up the process?

Under the proposed pilot scheme, property companies will be able to pay for fast-track decisions for office, retail and residential applications. Regardless of whether permission is granted or denied, the fee paid will be used by Westminster council to cover the cost of planning staff needed in the decision-making process.

Campaigners fear the subsidy would amount to property companies paying for planning permission, and that in practice, it could result in councils waiving applications and compromising on quality control. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? And how would these changes impact on the processes currently in place?

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