Councils have been subject to a performance regime for determining planning applications for a couple of years now. It was only ‘major’ applications in 13 weeks, this year it is going to be extended to non-major applications in 8 weeks. It is rare now to find development management people who don’t understand the need to “play the game” to ensure they don’t get caught out. But it seems to me that policy people are not paying sufficient attention to the concept of performance management that is going to be applied to the local plan later this year.
The details were in the consultation document published in February. The fact that the secretary of state will intervene in situations where councils do not have a plan did get some headlines, although the number of councils caught by this measure is quite small.
Of more interest are the criteria for triggering an intervention on page 42. It’s quite clear that the government is going to use the Council’s Local Development Scheme (LDS) as a baseline from which to assess whether a council is making progress with its plan.
I spend more time than most ferreting around on council websites, looking for various things including the council’s LDS. I find them almost universally out of date, with many councils forgetting to update them as timetables slip. Since the requirement to submit the LDS to government has lapsed, the discipline to keep them accurate has gone. Too many other things to do.
So, we have a clear intention from government to introduce a league table and accompanying penalties that is based on a timetable in a document that most councils are failing to make properly. And, for those councils that are sighted on this issue, some people are planning to revise the LDS to give themselves milestones that are waaaaaaaay out in the future.
This is nuts.
Just as DM people have had to accept the reality of a performance management system on planning applications, policy people need to do the same. Get yourself to one of our LDS events because we’ve done some of the work for you. And then, accept a new pressure and spotlight on the plan production timetable. Which, given the amount of resource it requires, is no bad thing.