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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 7th September, 2011

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Planning and Transportation

 

Welsh Government Consultation Document - Draft Practice Guidance Realising the Potential of Pre-Application Discussions

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             The purpose of this report is to inform Cabinet about recent draft guidance issued by the Welsh Government promoting pre-application discussions, and to seek Cabinet’s approval for the consultation responses to that document.

Recommendations

1.             That Cabinet note the content of the report.

2.             That, subject to consultation with Planning Committee, Cabinet approves the responses, as attached at Appendix B to the Consultation Document to be sent to the Welsh Government.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To inform Cabinet of the content of the recent guidance issued by the Welsh Government promoting pre-application discussions.

2.             To respond to the Welsh Government’s consultation document with feedback on the draft guidance.

Background

2.             The Welsh Government has produced draft pre-application discussion practice guidance to help ensure that the benefits of the pre-application stage are realised. The draft guidance is called Realising the potential of pre-application discussion and is attached at Appendix A. The need for the practice guide was identified in the Study to Examine the Planning Application Process in Wales (WAG June 2010).

3.             The Welsh Government is currently consulting on the content of the draft guidance and a structured response questionnaire is provided. The proposed response on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council is attached at Appendix B.

Relevant Issues and Options

Current procedures in the Vale of Glamorgan

 

4.             The Council already has a protocol for carrying out pre-application discussions with developers, which is available to view on the Council’s web site: http://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/living/planning/planning_applications/advice_and_guidance.aspx

5.             The Vale of Glamorgan Council is already committed to providing free pre-application advice to all potential applicants seeking extensions to residential properties (i.e. householder applications) and since 4th April 2011, all requests for pre-application advice on ‘major’ and ‘minor’ proposals have incurred a charge.

6.             In addition to the pre-application advice and guidance provided by officers in accordance with the above protocols, general advice and information, including the Council’s Unitary Development Plan and Supplementary Planning Guidance, is available on the planning pages of the Council website.

Implications of the guidance for the Vale of Glamorgan

 

7.             In most part, the draft guidance endorses the approach that the Council is already undertaking insofar as the Council has an existing protocol which is clear to all involved and is consistent with much of the advice in the guidance.  For example, the Council already records all pre-application submissions on the planning application database so that they are taken into account once formal applications are submitted.  The guidance also recognises that it is legitimate to charge for pre-application advice, although it does not specify details.

8.             There are matters in the guidance which raise new issues for the Council to consider whether the existing pre-application protocol needs to be amended.

9.             Firstly, the guidance endorses more involvement from 3rd parties (i.e. external consultees such as environmental bodies, or local communities). Whilst there are obvious benefits of doing so, there are concerns about the additional resources required to do this, the ability of 3rd parties to respond to consultation or get involved in the process effectively, and also what the implications are for the confidentiality of pre-application discussions.

10.        The guidance also advocates the involvement of Local Authority Members in pre-application discussions. At present, the Council does not have formal procedures to involve Members at this stage and this may therefore need to be investigated further.  It is however recognised that there are occasions where individuals have contacted Members for advice, and in such instances requests have been forwarded to the Council's officers for progressing.

Issues raised in consultation response

11.        A full copy of the proposed response to the guidance on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council is attached at Appendix B.

12.        One of the key concerns is that the guidance is primarily focussed towards Local Planning Authorities and places much of the responsibility for the delivery of successful pre-application discussions upon the Council.  This does not truly recognise the partnership process that is required between the developer and the Local Planning Authority and therefore the consultation response stresses the importance of the role of developers and how the guidance should direct developers to participate in the process as well as Local Planning Authorities.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

13.        None arising out of this report.  The guidance is for information only and does not place any additional statutory burden upon the Council as Local Planning Authority.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.        None arising out of this report.  The guidance is for information only and does not place any additional statutory burdens upon the Council as Local Planning Authority.

Crime and Disorder Implications

15.        None arising out of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

16.        None arising out of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

17.        The provision of pre-application advice to developers falls under the aims and objectives of the Planning and Transportation Service Plan.

Policy Framework and Budget

18.        This report is a matter for Executive Decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        No Ward Member consultation has been undertaken as the report has implications for the Vale as a whole, rather than specific wards.  Consultation has been undertaken with the representatives of the relevant service areas.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

20.        Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Victoria Abraham, Principal Planner (Development Control) Tel:  01446 704662

 

Officers Consulted

Director of Finance, I.C.T. and Property

Operational Manager - Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick, Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration