The problem of the planning process.. by Tony Abel

Written by Tony Abel.

I never cease to be surprised how many people think this is how new homes get built: developer picks a field, applies for planning permission, builds houses.  This is a perception which is not helped by lazy media reports that suggest a ‘developer’ wanting to build on a particular site has simply chosen their field and submitted a planning application.

This is misleading and so far from the truth.  In many – and increasingly most – areas of the country, there is a process adopted by District Councils that investigates suitable land for development and then allocates it in what is called the Local Development Framework (LDF).  No-one argues that there isn’t a shortage of homes in this country, and the LDF helps Councils decide the most appropriate place to put them.  Many years ago a similar process was called the ‘Village Envelope’.

Most Councils have a specialist department which develops a planning strategy which identifies the various sites that may be suitable.  There then follows an examination process by a different body within the Council which will recommend the actual site (or sites) that are to be brought forward. The point here is that it is the Council which has selected the land to be built upon.  Many factors will be considered as they make their decision: it must have suitable access; it should be appropriate in terms of other development in the area; mains services should be available; it should not flood; surface water should be able to be discharged in a sustainable way. Ecological, archaeological, contamination and aboricultural surveys will also be taken into account, along with many other factors too numerous to identify here. The land must also be capable of being delivered as housing: in other words, the landowner must be willing to sell, or the land already in the hands of a developer.  The process also requires that the public and local Councils are consulted and their views are also part of the determining factor. So it is the Councils, with careful consideration who decide where developers should build.  There are a few exceptions where land has not been allocated and developers seek consent, but even then, they do not give themselves consent.  It has to go through the same rigorous exercise before any planning permission is approved – or not. We have just been through this meticulous exercise with land that we own in Swaffham, land that we bought in 2008. It is an exhaustive process and costly to the applicant who will not only bear the Council’s fees but also pays for the surveys. 

Tony Abel is managing director of Abel Homes. visit  Twitter: @tonyabel

See page 49 for Abel Homes’ Danny Pinner’s special award.

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