George Bernard Shaw said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provides the national planning policy basis for encouraging the use of pre-application discussions with local planning authorities.
However, on most projects nowadays, developers need to weigh up whether or not to canvass the project with their neighbours or local community organisations.
This is often seen as an inconvenience and unnecessary delay to obtaining planning permission – but this is not always the case and increasingly needs to be seen as an important step in ensuring the planning permission is granted as swiftly and as certainly as possible.
Less haste, more speed?
The Planning process, especially for larger development projects, is a ‘people business’. It is critical to build relationships as you go – whether with officers, with local Councillors or with local interested parties. Failing to take the time to build those relationships will often only create problems that will lie in wait to trip up the scheme further down the line.
Often there is a perceived urgency to submit an application in full as soon as possible – often at the cost of time spent talking to officers or local interests (Councillors, amenity societies). You can almost sense the collective sigh of relief that a milestone has been hit as the application goes in. As if, once it goes in, “we are almost there”. This haste can be extremely costly to the prospect of getting permission.
In a recent case, an application we submitted in Ealing for the redevelopment of a number of redundant disused lock-up garages to create nine new flats adjacent to an existing mansion block led to over 40 objections in three days to the Council. This just shows in advance the possible political problems in dealing with a Planning Committee and causes for concern with officers.
There are several points that must be understood about almost all planning applications – either technical or practical – which influence this need for a rethink about the importance of a quick submission above (almost) anything else. There needs to be a ‘mindset shift’ from short term programme goals to medium to long term project and delivery goals.