Blog: 24 November 2015Making the planning system work for you

Recently I delivered a seminar at the Farm Business Innovation Show at the NEC in Birmingham. Presenting to an audience of farmers and landowners, my talk centred on how they can use the planning system to get the most out of their land.

For those not used to it, the planning system can often be seen as an overwhelming challenge and a barrier to exploring new opportunities. However, through collaborative working and making sure you’re involved with Local Planning from the start puts you in a better position.

One of the key elements of planning is that you have to be ‘in it to win it’. Finding out what stage your local authority’s Local Plan is at is vital and to make sure your land features in those plans – this alone can help shape and determine the opportunities available and help landowners focus on realistic and feasible ideas.

Local Plans set strategic housing requirements for the next 15 – 20 years, as well as identifying how much employment land is needed. By researching the plan and checking policy against future applications, you put yourself in a strong position of preparing your land to become an attractive, feasible and deliverable opportunity. Some Councils also produce a Site Allocations DPD - a document which aims to identify strategic sites not already in the Local Plan. These documents can be incredibly useful however it is imperative that you engage with them at the beginning in order to discover where the potential lies.

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) is a ‘living document’ and a great resource for landowners to ensure their land and interests are part of it. The SHLAA outlines sites that are available for housing ( and can be useful tools for employment development too) and can be a great resource for landowners to use when looking to promote land. The SHLAA can be a pool of evidence, documenting that land is available and deliverable. The success of your land within the SHLAA can be assisted if accompanied by a masterplan or ecology survey for example, and presenting a portfolio of evidence to support your site is a worthwhile approach. With the document being ‘live’, it is vital that you keep on top of and respond to any updates.

 

Another key and vital aspect of making the planning system work for you is working in collaboration with key delivery partners. Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) work in the area with a key objective of economic development. Understanding the LEPs key aims and objectives, including their development objectives is key in making sure your ideas and aspirations as landowners is embedded in the LEP’s objective.

When it comes to planning, there are a few policies that are very difficult to influence, such as the Green Belt. However the Green Belt can sometimes be influenced in the long term – get engaged with the methodology of a Green Belt Review from the beginning and understand what opportunities are available. Look at appointing consultants to undertake your own Green Belt review and present it to the Council to assist them in their own assessment.

Lastly, Neighbourhood Planning is here to stay and you need to put yourself at the forefront of it. Be aware of what is going on around you and check Parish Council websites for any proposals to designate neighbourhood plan areas. Make sure you are armoured when attending any planning meetings – read the proposals, read the minutes of the last meeting and make noise at the meetings to get your opinions heard.

It is really vital to be part of the process from the beginning and make sure you are part the conversation during the Neighbourhood Planning process.

Just to recap, my top 5 tips on making the planning system work for you are:

  • SHLAA –Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment – can be used as a useful, yet simple way of getting your site noticed.
  • Local Plans – 15 – 20 year strategic document – look to secure you land within it, or ensure policies are flexible where they affect your land.
  • Work in collaboration – make sure you build relationships with key figures.
  • Green Belt – learn the policies and look for opportunities.
  • Neighbourhood Planning – be involved from the beginning and become part of a bigger discussion.

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Planning System, Green Belt, Local Planning Authorities, Landowners, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Local Plans