Interestingly, on a long list that goes well beyond conventional class B uses, schemes seen as having such potential include housing. The statement advises authorities to approve applications unless there are good reasons not to do so. But applications inevitably give rise to a range of views and a key part of development management is trying to reconcile them.
Despite pre-application consultation, the submission of an actual planning application will almost always bring other issues to the fore. So why are some local authorities so coy about disclosing these? There is nothing to be gained by keeping these matters confidential. All responses will become public by the time that the committee report is published. But by then it is too late to respond and introduce amendments that might have resolved the conflicts. Applications refused unnecessarily or withdrawn at the last minute can leave councils facing immediate resubmissions for which they receive no payment.
No-one benefits from this. Consultation responses should be available to all throughout the time an application is considered. Co-operative development management should include officers highlighting the issues that applicants need to consider to maximise their chances of gaining approval. Many authorities adopt just such an approach. But regrettably some still seem to regard their role as simply processing what has been submitted, collating comments behind closed doors and reaching a view with minimal engagement.
Gary Halman is a partner at commercial planning adviser HOW Planning LLP and a past chairman of the RICS planning and development faculty. The views expressed are his own.