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BPF calls for planning law revamp to speed up applications

The British Property Federation is set to call for a re-evaluation of planning laws to allow developers to sponsor the progress of applications through the planning process.

The proposal to allow developers to make contributions to local authorities raises questions about the possible erosion of public probity, but in its Planning Manifesto, due to be unveiled in London today, the BPF will say the measures are necessary to deliver new homes and other large developments.

In her speech to landlords, investors and agents, Sainsbury’s planning chief Sue Wilcox will also call for planning departments to outsource more work to private contractors, and for Councillors to receive mandatory formal training to allow them to make better planning decisions.

The BPF fell short of demanding an overhaul of planning laws, saying existing regulations just needed to be interpreted more elastically.

BPF chief executive Liz Peace said: “Our recommendations are designed to make the best use of what we have, mostly without the need for legislation or substantial extra local authority funding.

“We must ensure local politicians and officers understand how development operates and encourage developers to contribute towards more efficient processing of applications.”

The Local Government Association and the Town and Country Planning Association both broadly welcomed the proposals to allow developers to contribute to the coffers of local councils but stressed the need for transparency

Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association environment board, said the proposal would help planners manage the cost of processing applications, but said that allowing local governments to set their own fees would be a less controversial way of speeding up the planning process.

Mr Bettison said: “What would be far better is if government freed councils to set the fees needed to recoup the costs of any planning application as this would allow there to be no question of concerns around clarity."

Proposals to insert more expertise into planning departments were met with more scepticism. Councillor Bettison said planning departments were already well trained in the complexities of the property industry.

Francis Salway, BPF President said developers were “prepared to take a more proactive role in helping train planners and councillors with a regular programme of secondments.”

Planning Manifesto recommendations:

1. Improve recruitment and retention of planners

2. Let planners get on with planning, removing minor applications

3. Encourage Councils to outsource mainstream planning functions

4. Encourage councils to accept property industry funding for planning resources

5. Make councillor training mandatory

6. Pool resources across local authorities

7. Incentivise local authorities to promote development

8. Use tax increment financing to fund infrastructure

9. Reduce information required to support planning applications

10. Speed up the contribution from statutory consultees

11. Improve and incentivise pre-application discussions

12. Require planning appeals to concentrate on the reasons for refusal