The Corporate Director Communities presented a report seeking Cabinet authorisation to use Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) with developers as part of a system of cost recovery in dealing with mainly major development proposals and to introduce additional cost recovery measures. She explained that PPAs were widely used across the UK and were accepted by house builders and developers alike.
The Group Manager Planning and Development Services outlined the report and what it hoped to achieve. A PPA should be viewed as an efficiency tool, which provided a clear timeframe to progress significant development proposals with associated economic benefits as well as where necessary additional resource was provided to ensure service continuity. He stressed that a PPA should not be considered as a means of ‘buying’ a planning consent or circumventing the normal planning process.
The Group Manager Planning and Development Services explained that Bridgend had seen a number of large development proposals coming forward over the last year, for example, the expansion of the WEPA paper mill in Maesteg was a significant project with subsequent economic benefits both locally and regionally. This application tested the teams quite considerably from pre-application through to post decision and at one point required full time input for a number of officers. In this case, the project was time sensitive but was delivered on time following the grant of planning permission although other work streams within the service were delayed as a result. The use of a PPA in this circumstance would provide an agreed framework for the processing of the application from pre-application stage through to the discharge of conditions as well as the potential to secure additional resource to assist in covering those staff members fully engaged on the project.
The Group Manager Planning and Development Services explained that PPAs would be used for larger development schemes but could also be used for any type of development that required an extraordinary response from the LPA. This could include renewable energy schemes or essential development on sensitive sites. PPAs could also be used as part of a response to consultations on Developments of National Significance (DNS) applications. These applications were submitted to and determined by the Welsh Ministers via the Planning Inspectorate, which took most of the planning fee. In this case, the local authority would be a statutory consultee and would be responsible for discharging the conditions and any subsequent enforcement. It was essential therefore that any costs incurred by securing critical advice could be recovered from the developer.
He added that when the LDP was renewed and adopted an increase in planning apps for strategic sites was expected. They needed to be able to manage these applications as effectively as possible in addition to the day to day applications.
The Group Manager Planning and Development Services outlined the proposed changes to the current paid pre-application advice service and the additional services added in response to public demand.
The Cabinet Member for Communities added that the PPAs had been in existence for a number of years and could be used to offset the hit resulting from cut after cut since 2010. These cuts had reduced the resilience of the planning department along with the added costs of continuing to provide the service. They had been in existence for a number of years and he considered that the scale of charges was not excessive.
The Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations asked for clarification regarding the potential impact on the smaller developers. The Group Manager Planning and Development Services replied that he would not anticipate a small scale builder entering into an agreement. This was more about complexity and where additional resource would be required. Developments of up to 10 houses were unlikely to need that but each case would be taken on its merit. They would only look to cover the costs incurred outside of the normal application fee. BCBC was the first authority in Wales to introduce a paid for pre application advice service. He was sceptical at first but from that point on they realised there was a willingness on the part of the developer to engage and receive bespoke advice. This should not be seen as a money making venture but purely to recover what was required. There was also the discretion to waive the fee if necessary such as for a deprived group or a community project. The Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations thanked the Group Manager Planning and Development Services for the reassurances.
The Leader added that a key feature of these arrangements were that they were voluntary arrangements for those who wanted a quicker or different type of service and the outcome would still be the same.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
1. Approved the use of Planning Performance Agreements and any resulting or associated
financial contribution as part of the planning process.
• A 5% increase over the next two years on our pre-app charging schedule.
• An increase in the hourly rates for specialist consultee advice from £50 an hour to £60
• The addition of Pre-Purchase Certificates and Completion Certificates to the preapplication advice service up to £300 per request for individual houses and between £500 and £1000 for larger scale premises.
• The addition of pre-submission validation checks of £90 - £200 depending on the complexity of the proposal.
• That a charge be made for completing NRW Derogation licence for applicant to send off
to NRW in the sum of £250
• The introduction of a charge for undertaking highway stopping up orders as required by
3. Authorised the Corporate Director Communities to take all necessary steps to introduce Performance Planning Agreements and to agree appropriate charges to be made in Performance Planning Agreements and, in consultation with the Chief Legal Officer to enter into Planning Performance Agreements as required