This article is taken from January’s Resource Management and Recovery Magazine.
After nearly a year of parliamentary scrutiny, the Localism Act achieved royal assent in November 2011. Rebecca Eatwell, Director at PPS Group, investigates one of the key principles of the Act, statutory pre-application consultation.
The Localism Act includes a variety of measures to decentralise power and give local people a greater say over what happens in their area. A key tenant of this is an overhaul of the planning system. The intention is to simplify the planning process, making it more accessible and ultimately giving local communities more control over development.
One of the ways to achieve this greater community involvement is the introduction of statutory pre-application consultation for planning applications above a certain threshold.
What do we know?
The Act states that developers of infrastructure above the threshold will need to undertake pre-application consultation, publicising the application to “the majority of the persons…in the vicinity of the land”. They will also need to “have regard to any responses to the consultation” received.
However, much of the detail of what will be required will be in the secondary legislation brought forward by Government. Officers at DCLG have stated that consultation on this secondary legislation will begin in the next few months, with the requirement to consult coming into force in October 2012.
It is expected that this secondary legislation will be light touch and not for example prescribing minimum timescales for consultation. In the spirit of localism, developers will be directed to comply with the good practice guidance from local planning authorities (currently set out in their Statement of Community Involvements), which will vary from council to council.
What will this mean?
In reality, most developers of waste infrastructure are already undertaking complaint pre-application consultation and will just need to ensure they comply with any procedures set out in the legislation.
The biggest impact will be that pre-application consultation will become a material consideration at planning committee and planning appeal. There will also be the risk of perceived inadequate consultation becoming the subject of a judicial review.
The consultation process will therefore need to be de-risked, by agreeing the programme with planning officers at the earliest opportunity. It will also be essential to properly record the consultation responses and demonstrate how the feedback received has influenced the proposals. Ultimately, getting your consultation strategy right from the outset will be more important than ever.
Written by reatwell