BUSINESSES have been urged to engage with local authorities as councils have a window of just one year to bring their local plans into line with the new planning rules for England.
The call has come from Louisa Jakeman, a solicitor at Solihull and Birmingham solicitors Williamson & Soden.
“Businesses often complained that the old planning rules held back their development. Now they have a window of opportunity to influence council plans as a part of the community. Councils have to be open to consultation with the community and businesses will kick themselves if they now miss the opportunity,” said Ms Jakeman.
The basis of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which came into force on March 27, is a presumption in the planning system in favour of sustainable development, meaning projects with positive economic, social and environmental effects.
This presumption will change the direction of the planning system so projects will be approved where they are ‘sustainable’ and where council plans are absent or silent on the matter. In turn, this will be a practical incentive for local authorities to focus on their plans, with due consultation.
The new approach is backed by the company’s senior partner Ian Williamson, a specialist planning lawyer.
“I welcome the new rules, and the drive for simplification and engagement with business and the community that lie behind them” he said.
“I also believe that it is potentially of great benefit to the West Midlands that the new rules specifically favour development in town centres and on brownfield sites and also that they give a greater emphasis to design.
“For example, in the case of town centres, there is a real opportunity to support innovative developments in the face of the continuing challenge from out of town shopping and changing retail patterns brought about by Internet shopping.
“Overall, the new framework will remove some of the real barriers to business and economic growth, but only if businesses become involved at this stage,” said Mr Williamson.
But he added that the NPPF does not mean that applicants for planning consent will have an easy ride.
“The case has to be properly thought out and there has to have been appropriate consultation,” he explained.
“The possibility of judicial challenge for decisions will remain and stakeholders will still challenge local plans and decisions on controversial proposals.
“The chances of a successful application will still depend to a large extent on how it is presented and it is vital that applicants go about the process in the right way”.