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Planning process takes major step forward

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership has taken another “major step forward” in making the planning process easier.

The Planning Business Group of the LEP has drawn up and had agreed a protocol for the bodies which by law have to comment on planning applications.

The protocol will require the consulting bodies, the applicant and the planning authority to sign up to certain commitments which are all designed to smooth the path to planning.

CW LEP board member Lynnette Kelly, who has responsibility for planning, said the protocol is the latest of several advances made by the Planning Business Group all with the aim of improving the planning process.

Kelly, a Coventry City Councillor, said: “We know that when investors and developers want to relocate or invest in an area they want to do so quickly, simply and with the minimum of fuss. This means we have to make sure that our processes are sharp and efficient and that’s what this work has all been about.”

The statutory consultees include the Environment Agency, Canals and Rivers Trust, Natural England and the local flood authority.

Anna Rose, Rugby Borough Council’s head of planning and culture, chairs the Planning Business Group and said the protocol was the latest in a string of improvements introduced across Coventry and Warwickshire by the LEP.

“I think it is fair to say that when it comes to statutory consultees, planning has a fairly congested landscape and we knew there must be a way of making the process more co-ordinated for all parties,” she said.
“Over the last few months we have met all the relevant bodies and have great buy-in to what we have been trying to achieve. Growth depends to an extent on development, so transparency and efficiency in the planning process can be a great help. Everyone involved in planning has that as the aim.

“We had already agreed a code of co-operation between developers and all our planning authorities so this was just a natural extension of that.

“With so many organisations involved we are delighted to have had the protocol agreed by everyone and there seems a real willingness to make it work. It is a major step forward.”

As part of the protocol, the statutory consultees have to agree to give clear advice, be aware of the need, cost and time of their requirements, apply equal priority to minor and major applications and to maintain a single point of contact throughout the process.

They will only respond with planning considerations, ensure that viability issues are taken into account and will work with other consultees asked to comment on similar issues. They have also signed up to agreed timescales.

The applicants have to agree with the planning authority who the consultees are, to supply them with relevant information to allow a response within 21 days and to work collaboratively.

Rose added: “The LEP Planning Business Group is made up of public and private sector planners as well as developers and organisations who are consultees in planning, so we knew from the outset that making things simpler had widespread support.”

Councillor Kelly added: “This is another very good piece of work by the Planning Business Group.

“Planning makes a significant difference in the ability of an area to grow, and in Coventry and Warwickshire we have made sizeable strides in several areas. Having a uniformity of approach on subjects such as statutory consultation brings further clarity and efficiency to the planning process.”