Move towards longer planning consents welcomed

The Government's decision to allow existing planning consents to be extended beyond the usual three years will help developers struggling in the recession, according to John Holmes, head of planning at Hill Dickinson.

Holmes, speaking at the Place North West Retail Property Conference hosted at Hill Dickinson's office in Liverpool yesterday, said: "The proposed changes will provide some relief for developers in the current economic climate, as extending the time for the implementation of a planning permission will allow for greater flexibility. The changes announced by the minister will be welcomed by many developers but there is still more the planning system and local planning authorities can do to bring more flexibility, and allow developers to respond quickly to changing market conditions."

Housing minister John Healey declared that local authorities would have discretion to lengthen current permission periods. Many are already setting new consents at five and eight years.

Also speaking at the Retail Property Conference were DTZ research director Georgia Siora, who presented from her Retail-led Regeneration report for the British Council of Shopping Centres; Graham Pilkington, senior development surveyor at Maple Grove Developments and Gary Turner, retail director at surveyors Mason Owen.

Siora said the major food stores were growing rapidly and creating jobs in the recession but urged planning authorities to try and ensure a balance was reached with local independent retailers maintaining a presence in neighbourhoods.

Pilkington said retailers being courted to take space in Maple Grove centres were "planning for armageddon but the reality seems to suggest it will will not happen. However, they are still going to give it six to twelve months to see if it does."

Turner said banks were starting to lend again but mainly to their existing clients and there were only limited new transactions trickling down to the retail market.

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