Please note the changes to our schedule of fees for Pre-Application Advice and Planning Performance Agreements (PPA) which takes effect from 6 April 2017.
A Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) is simply an agreement between a developer and a local authority (and potentially other key players, such as statutory consultees) setting out who will do what and when.
What are Planning Performance Agreements?
In essence, it is designed to address some common problems encountered by local authorities and applicants, such as timescales, resources, and the quality of applications and decisions, by providing a framework and project management approach for delivering good quality outcomes. One of the key benefits of PPAs is their ability to give developers greater certainty and confidence in the planning process.
If proposals are subject to a PPA, the planning application is taken out of the National Indicator 157 reporting regime and the eight, 13 or 16 week time periods for determination that relate to minor/major/EIA applications will not apply. The authority is judged instead on whether it complies with the PPA deadlines. Whilst this should not be the sole motivation for entering into a PPA, it does, however, enable the authority to take a more holistic view of major developer’s project requirements.
A PPA should improve the speed and quality of the decision-making process, deliver better outcomes, and facilitate better engagement between local authorities, developers and – where possible – other key players. A PPA should achieve more than merely setting a timetable for a decision. Some key potential benefits include:
- establishing a better understanding of a project's needs, including management of resources, and the scope of collaborative working;
- setting a realistic timetable relevant for the size and complexity of the application and defining key milestones
- minimising the risks and costs of appeal
- enabling identification of problems and a method of reviewing these
- providing a formal mechanism for parties, including key stakeholders, to collaborate
The council's Planning Development Management Service is fully committed to the aims of PPAs and is keen to develop further their use. It is considered that the greater use of PPAs will fit comfortably with the authority's aspirations of delivering a positive and pro-active Development Management Service, which will help ensure that the wider Planning Service maximises its role in terms of meeting the number one priority of the council, helping deliver high quality development in the Borough of Hertsmere.
Providing a planning performance agreement helps ensure that proposals progress through the application process in a timely fashion and result in high quality development but the service is both time consuming and costly. We have, therefore, introduced a new charge for all planning performance agreements to ensure that adequate resources and expertise can be provided to advise on development proposals. A copy of the charging schedule is set out below:
When should a PPA be initiated?
Engagement at an early stage about the process of handling an application means that issues and concerns are also identified at that stage. Front-loading and early engagement are being increasingly recognised as good practice. To make the best use of time and to reap the most benefits, a PPA should be formulated within the pre-application process.
There needs to be an understanding between the local authority and the developer and a desire on both sides to work together towards a shared vision and objectives. PPAs need to be flexible to take account of changes but clear enough to set out a framework for dealing with such eventualities.
A PPA should form part of the pre-application process. While the start of a PPA will differ from case to case, generally we believe the best time to discuss the suitability of a PPA is following the receipt by a customer of the council’s initial pre-application response to a development enquiry.
It is at this stage that officers will be able to advise whether a proposal would benefit from a PPA, or whether or not a proposal is capable of merely proceeding straight to formal planning submission.
What is the best approach to agreeing the scope of a PPA?
As with any simple, non-specific proformas, the process for agreeing a PPA must be proportionate to the proposals. Developers and local authorities can achieve a proportionate PPA by having clear aims and objectives for the proposed development, the application process and the PPA itself before starting discussions.
We fully recognise that agreeing a PPA should not take up valuable time and resources, so that it becomes a work stream in itself and delays discussion and determination of a proposed planning application. The real task is not negotiating an agreement, but setting out a framework early on. This will allow the objectives to be delivered; the necessary steps taken for the planning application to be formulated, submitted and validated; and for consultation to be done in an appropriate co-ordinated and informed way.
As part of the Development Management Services key facilitator role to major development enquiries, officers will normally prepare a draft of a PPA to help expedite discussion with a developer leading to sign off. However, if a developer prefers to submit their own draft, officers will be equally happy to follow this approach.
What happens if things go wrong?
A PPA does not bind the developer or the local authority into the agreed process. If the authority fails to determine the application in accordance with the agreed date then the normal statutory provisions apply and the developer may appeal. Likewise, if a developer does not abide by the PPA, the local authority will not be obliged to follow the agreed process. To avoid any doubt, the PPA should specify the date from which the right to appeal for non-determination runs.
In cases where dispute arises, in particular where a developer feels the council is not meeting the timescales provided in a PPA, arrangements will be made for the matter to be urgently reviewed by the planning development manager or if required the head of planning.
Review of PPA Process
As part of the Development Management Service’s standard business, those developers entering into PPAs with the authority will be invited to share their experience with the service, once a PPA is completed. This will ensure that any lessons learned and general feedback can be captured and incorporated into future reviews of the service’s PPA procedures
Pre-application advice and planning performance agreement service
Pre-application advice and planning performance agreement service application form
Pre-application commercially sensitive checklist