Compulsory test for applications planned.
Even before local authorities make a judgment on a planning application, they first decide if the application is valid, and often take a strict approach to the process because of Government targets.
For example, by March 31, 2007, local planning authorities will be required to determine 60% of major applications within 13 weeks following validation and 65% of minor applications within eight weeks.
These targets put pressure on local planners and as a consequence put pressure on the validation process.
To avoid any possible suggestions planners are delaying validation so that targets can be more easily met, the Government has proposed to incorporate in law what is meant by a valid planning application.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published a consultation paper entitled Validation of Planning Applications.
The paper's aim is to canvass views on proposed changes to the General Development Procedure Order (GDPO). This is the order that deals with the making of planning applications and follows on from a consultation paper published in March last year, which sought views on the introduction of a standard planning application form. The latest consultation paper proposes a national mandatory list of information required for a valid planning application.
This will be incorporated into the Standard Application Form and be referred to as the Planning Applications Requirements (National). Local planners will also be able to specify their own mandatory requirements to meet local needs. This will be referred to as Planning Applications Requirements (Local). The additional local details required may include such information as a flood risk assessment and an affordable housing statement. These local requirements will have to be consulted on before being adopted.
A planning application will only be valid if it provides the information required by the Planning Applications Requirements National and Local. Essentially it will be a checklist to test the validity of an application in a transparent way. It will still be possible, however, for planners to request further information if the information supplied is inadequate.
If the Government implements the proposals, then the GDPO will be amended to provide for the Standard Application Form in October this year. Local planning authorities have until next July to adopt the Standard Application Form, and it will not become compulsory a month later.
Robin Atkin is a partner in the planning team at law firm Ward Hadaway in Newcastle.