The draft criteria published last month by DCLG state that councils will be eligible for designation should they determine fewer than 65 per cent of non-major applications on time over a two-year period ending in September 2016.
Planning magazine reports that the introduction of the special measures regime for major applications is seen by many as being behind an explosion in the use of extension of time agreements (EoTs) and planning performance agreements (PPAs) between councils and applicants. Under the special measures policy, the calculation of the proportion of decisions made on time by an authority includes EoTs and PPAs. The magazine explains this means that as long as applications involving such agreements are decided before the agreed deadline, they can be determined outside of the normal time limit without affecting the authority's position in the performance table.
The POS President Anna Rose told a reporter that applicants bringing forward smaller schemes may be less willing than those behind major developments to enter into EoTs or PPAs. Major applications are of high value and applicants are often willing to enter into such agreements to get the approach right, she said.
But for smaller schemes, she suggests, there is less at stake and applicants may have less appetite to push applications beyond the time limit. Such applicants could be less likely to feel that their application would warrant the payment of a pre-application fee, or the agreement of a PPA, she said. They may feel they are better off waiting for a decision, or to appeal a council's non-determination of their application, Rose suggests.
Rose indicated that a strain on resources is the main barrier to improvement. She cautioned that the sanctions would hit authorities which are already struggling. "Do we need to do a bit more to help them before we punish them?" she asked.