In common with many other Local Authorities, Stockport MBC is currently endeavouring to square the circle and continue to provide necessary services with a decreasing budget. This means changes to the way they operate and an increase in the number of services that have to be paid for. As part of the Stockport Developer’s Forum we were recently made aware of forthcoming changes that are likely to be implemented in the first half of 2013. Unfortunately these are likely to make the planning process more difficult to negotiate.
- Firstly, planners will no longer be directly contactable by phone. Rather a call centre will be the first port of call. The idea is that this will filter out general enquiries, however it will inevitably slow down the planning process as well. To ensure that this delay doesn’t have too great an impact on design development we feel it is essential that the response period is kept to a minimum. Other authorities work on the basis of a reply within two working days which seems to work reasonably well.
- Another change is that fees are to be introduced for pre-application consultations. Again this seems to be rapidly becoming the industry standard, therefore while it is regrettable it is perhaps hardly a surprise. Obviously it will be a temptation for developers to forgo pre-consultation and just try their luck with an application, however this may prove to be a false economy given the third change to the system under discussion.
- The government is keen to force Local Authorities to keep to the 8 and 13 week periods for the determination of planning applications. To ensure they meet these targets planners will be obliged to refuse an unsuitable scheme that might otherwise have been discussed with the developer and revised over an extended period of time, ultimately leading to an approval. Thus getting a scheme right prior to application is going to become increasingly important – and often this will mean paying for pre-consultation advice.