Local Development Orders: a consultation bypass?

Earlier this week it was revealed that Macclesfield town centre could receive two new neighbourhoods, if a new Local Development Order (LDO) to develop brownfield land is implemented by Cheshire East Council.

Under an LDO, local planning authorities grant planning permission to specific types of development within specified areas, such as housing on brownfield land. LDOs effectively streamline the planning process by removing the need for developers to make planning applications, which can be costly in both time and finances. One of the core benefits of such orders is the ability to attract investment and regeneration in particular areas by redeveloping used land. Of course, this is good news for local authorities who need to build more houses and reuse sites; it should also help the Government meet housing targets.

The death knell for consultation?

In 2014, local planning authorities were invited by the government to bid for funding for LDOs in order to build housing on brownfield land. Cheshire East Council was successful in this bid, and managed to secure a pot of £100,000 from the Department for Communities & Local Government. Although LDOs require consultation before they are put in place, it is a challenge to engage the public at such an early stage.

Nevertheless, even though LDOs allow developers to speed up the planning process, they should still consider undertaking consultation on detailed plans as part of their approach. At a minimum, public consultation can help to create a positive reception for plans, and build relationships for developers who will likely wish to develop other sites. More than this, not only does public consultation help shape the places where people will live and work, which is perhaps a necessity for brownfield land; it also offers an opportunity for local knowledge to be shared, and to win community and political buy-in, by working constructively to develop new plans together.

Building consensus for development

LDOs are clearly a valuable tool for developers and planning authorities alike, easing restrictions in the planning process. The Macclesfield case will be interesting to watch and, if successful, chosen local authorities should see huge swathes of brownfield land redeveloped. However, for developers to create successful communities, public consultation should remain a key cog in the planning machine, ensuring consensus on developments and improving areas for the people that live and work there. Amid a new world of LDOs, public consultation still has much to offer.

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