I attended an excellent planning seminar this morning at Browne Jacobson's Nottingham office. Three topics covered and some good discussion. We had an update on contaminated land, CIL and how it is so inflexible and the emerging ideas on Starter Homes.

Starter Homes are a new Government initiative to get the under 40's on the housing ladder with the primary aim to offer houses at upto 20% lower than Open Market Value. As part of the deal the house builder doesn't pay CIL on starter homes. Lots of enthusiam in the room that this may be a great help to those wanting to become property owners. I don't know the final figures but I believe the target is something like 200,000 by the end of 2020.

The common theme though from the attendees was that either existing consents would need to be changed to accomodate "starter homes" or a lot of permissions would have to be granted, and promptly, for this to be achieved. However the later will fail as 5 years simply isn't enough time to get these applications processsed.

The common problem every single person was facing was time. We heard over coffee of some horrendous delays, highways authorities taking 18 months to respond to an application, planning authorities causing delays, the Envrionment Agency, Natural England, England Heritage to name a few all taking months to respond to applications. These delays all create unnecessary frustration and tensions between those wishing to undertake development, the "regulators" and of course the numerous stakeholders who may have an interest in the proposed development. A common theme again was that many of these organisations are under resourced and some are simple not efficient. But how do you turn this round to ensure matters are dealt with promptly because every single Government has failed to speed up the planning process.

The answer from our small group today was that statutory consultees should have a strict timeframe within which to respond. No response = no comment. This would ensure that resources are made available to this important area of work and allow the planning process to speed up. The other suggestion was that the case officer and decision making personnel from the statutory consultees should meet on site with the applicant and deal with issues there and then. 

I wrote on this very same topic in May 2014 and in the planning world nothing seems to change. Government needs to take much bolder moves to simplify and speed up the process.

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