Black Country LEP produces 'business-friendly' planning charter

Four councils have teamed up to produce a document setting out a 'business-friendly' approach to handling planning applications.

The Black Country Planning and Development Charter was produced by the Black Country local enterprise partnership (LEP) in a bid to dispel what the partnership understood to be a common myth among local businesses that planning is a barrier to growth.

The four councils involved in the Black Country LEP - Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Wolverhampton City Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Walsall Council – worked with private sector LEP board members to produce the charter after a survey carried out by the LEP found that businesses in the Black Country area said they found the planning system complex and obstructive.

In the document, the councils set out what they are doing to smooth the planning system and give more certainty to developers.

For example, they pledge to give developers advice on planning applications, offer assistance in undertaking viability assessments and process applications as quickly as possible.

Walsall Council regeneration team leader Jo Nugent admitted that the charter does not include anything that the councils are not doing already, but said the LEP felt it necessary to reiterate its approach in order to dispel myths about the planning system.

John McDonough, chief executive of construction firm Carillion and a LEP board member, said: "The charter ensures a commitment from the four Black Country planning authorities to offer a flexible and, where possible, adaptable approach to planning to help remove barriers to growth and achieve high quality sustainable development in the area."

And Mike Holmes, president of the Planning Officers Society, said: "While the contents of the charter are not groundbreaking in themselves, it is groundbreaking that a group of local authorities have come together to tackle the numerous adverse perceptions that businesses have about planning."

Holmes, who is also head of planning policy at Bournemouth Borough Council, said that he would be suggesting that the Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole LEP adopt a similar approach.

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