Planners switch to eight-year consents to help developers

Cash-strapped developers can look forward to a period of longer planning consents lasting up to eight years, according to planning advisers in the region.

A recent eight-year consent awarded by Chorley council for a major mixed-use scheme put forward by United Utilities is being watched closely by other councils including Warrington and Macclesfield. Both are understood to be considering reverting to seven- or eight-year consents for major schemes during the recession as a way of reassuring developers.

Gary Halman, founding partner of HOW Planning in Manchester, advised UU on the Chorley application. He said: "The danger for councils lately has been that if they give consents for a short period the market thinks 'we're not likely to start within that time and then we'll have to spend twice to get back through planning so what's the point'."

Not long ago, the Government tightened the statutory minimum period for a planning consent from five to three years to try and spur developers to start on site. The decision now looks illogical, with an increasing number of consents expiring without anything being built.

John Holmes, partner and head of planning at law firm Hill Dickinson, added that contributions from Section 106s – the often costly conditions applied to planning applications – were also forcing councils to rethink their approach.

Holmes said: "There is a difficult debate going on between developers and councils as to how developments can be brought forward. Councils have planned for Section 106 payments that can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds but developers cannot afford it in this market.

"With profit margins disappearing as property values fall councils need to realise that the Section 106 contributions should be reduced."

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