PPAs are effectively an agreement between the Local Authority (LA) and an applicant to provide a project management framework to ‘speed up’ the planning process for major planning applications by committing each party to a series of Milestones.
PPAs provide a mechanism for collaborative working between the Local Authority and Applicant to develop proposals which value the process of Community Engagement and seek to promote quality development. In particular, PPAs emphasise a requirement to produce Sustainability Statements and develop a series of ‘Design Codes’ to guide new proposals.
Planning Application Thresholds
For the purpose of determining what constitutes a major planning application, in the case of large scale major applications, the following thresholds apply:
200 dwelling units or more
Or, where the no. of dwelling units (or floor space) is not specified a site area of 4 Hectares should be used.
10,000m2 or more
Or, where the size is not specified, a site area of more than 2 Hectares.
In the case of small scale major applications, the following thresholds apply:
10-199 dwelling units
Or, where the no. of dwelling units (or floor space) is not specified, a site area of between 1 and 2 Hectares should be used.
1,000m2 – 9,999m2
Or, where the site area is between 1-2 Hectares.
ATLAS itself has produced a guidance document (June 2007), regarding the implementation of Planning Performance Agreements. It notes that the PPA process might typically comprise the following:
Establish a ‘Vision’ and a series of Objectives
Produce a Key Issues and Task list
Formalise the Project team and Decision-making framework
Devise a project programme
(Refer to ATLAS document for further details. See also anticipated costs below)
Development of PPA
Development partner to develop the PPA based upon the Inception meeting factoring in both the ATLAS and Local Authority Guidance, in consultation with the Local Authority.
Finalisation and sign-off of the PPA
Outcome of the Inception stage to be captured in writing and agreed by the LA, Developer and potentially a third party (i.e. statutory consultee).
Submission of Planning Application/ Implementation
A series of steering group meetings should be established with the PPA and revised continually (as necessary) in accordance with any unforeseen constraints or circumstances.
In June 2005, a consultation paper Options for Implementation, considered that a new body- ATLAS (The Advisory Team for Large Planning Applications) should be commissioned to oversee a pilot project trialling the use of PPAs as a management tool. The pilot commenced in January 2006 and reached across 22 Local Planning Authorities (and associated developer partners), covering 23 No. sites.
The general consensus of the trial was that the methodology was robust enough to withstand a range of planning proposals and that strong working relationships could result between the respective Local Authorities and Developers. As a consequence of the trial, a number of key recommendations were put to the DCLG by ATLAS, including the following:
- PPAs should be used as a model of best practice, with LAs leading the process
- The principle of a PPA should be voluntary
- Statutory consultees should be required to take part as necessary
- The signing of PPAs should result in associated Planning Applications being exempt from the Local Authority’s own Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPIs), thereby removing the risk to the LA and Developer of slippage beyond the 13 week determination period.
The guidance produced by ATLAS suggests that in time, Local Authorities might consider establishing Planning Performance Agreement Charters, which should assist in providing guidance on PPAs that is pertinent to the particular Local Authority, whilst assisting in embedding the principles of the process within other adopted and emerging Local Authority documents (ref: Statement of Community Involvement)
Upon ‘signing off’ a PPA with the LA, the applicant should not assume that the LA would subsequently approve a new development proposal- rather that the framework itself could act to provide a series of step-by-step objectives and landmarks towards potentially delivering a successful outcome. PPAs have themselves changed name from Planning Delivery Agreement (PDAs) to reflect this more cautious approach on behalf of the Local Authority.
The fee for a PPA is roughly equivalent to that of a Planning Application and the existing guidance states that Local Authorities should not seek to profit from the process. Nonetheless, the PPA process recognises the additional burden on the LPA and empowers Local Authorities (under Section 93 of the Local Government Act 2003) to charge for the various of the process, including pre-application consultations. For example, the ‘Inception’ day alone could be attended by up to 6 members of the LA and incur a fee of approximately £4,000. Considering that the remainder of the PPA process could incur a fee on average of £11,000, prospective applicants should expect a PPA fee to total (on average) approximately £15,000. This anticipated fee could also vary depending on the complexity of the planning application, regional cost differences and the total contribution required to be made as part of a signed Section 106 Agreement.
Planning Performance Agreements- The future?
National Government in recent months has clearly stated its aspiration to ensure the construction of new sustainable settlements, comprising carbon-neutral dwellings that can be delivered at greater speed in order to meet the rising demand for new property. Many such dwellings will be expected to be delivered as affordable.
The emergence of Draft Regional Spatial Strategies have in recent months recognised that increased numbers of houses will be required to be delivered beyond established local authority targets. A new more-flexible and responsive ‘system’ is therefore being sought in order to speed up the planning process.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued a consultation on Planning Performance Agreements in May 2007. The consultation expired on the 17th August 2007. Further announcements are expected to be made on the issue however the PPA process remains voluntary at this time.
It is foreseeable, however, that Local Government may begin to influence developers to sign a PPA as this will allow them to recuperate costs relating to pre-application discussions, whilst ‘front-loading’ the planning system.
The PPA process has the potential to provide a mechanism towards achieving this whilst giving the development sector greater assurance (without consent) that their proposals will be permissible.