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Bracknell Forest: front-loading through planning performance agreements
What is the development?
Bracknell Forest District Council granted outline planning permission in 2004 for an urban extension on 64ha green field land, north west of Bracknell. The site had been allocated for housing in the Bracknell Forest Local Plan 2002. The development comprised between 1250-1500 dwellings, a country park and associated facilities, including:
- a neighbourhood centre
- primary school
- non-residential development.
A masterplan for the development was required by the outline permission. This was was approved in 2005.
The council and developer entered into a pilot planning performance agreement (PPA) to cover the arrangements for working on pre-application discussions on the reserved matters, condition discharge and adoptions under the Highways Acts. Development commenced on the site in 2007. It is programmed for completion in 2014.
Key factors of a development management approach
The masterplan provides an agreed planning framework.
The PPA provides an agreed methodology of working for both parties including arrangements for regular meetings and liaison between lead projects managers. It also covers agreed expectations from both the council’s and developer’s core teams on:
- response to pre-app proposals
- turn around of details
- submission of applications
- discharge of conditions.
It is also the defined mechanism for ongoing progress review and co-ordination between various council services.
The right teams
Lead project officers are appointed for both parties. The teams include representatives from the council and the development consortium. The officers involved have authority to make decisions to take the project forward.
The council’s core team includes appropriate officers to address adoption issues for highways and open space at an early stage as these issues are key to the successful delivery of the development.
The PPA teams have developed liaison arrangements to draw other stakeholders into the discussions as appropriate to the matter under consideration.
A PPA review group, including chief officers from planning, transportation and leisure meets with directors of the development company on a quarterly basis to review progress and deal with any outstanding or sticky issues.
The PPA has promoted a good working relationship between the core teams based on clear expectations of each party.
As the development has been subdivided into delivery packages which have in turn been subcontracted out to other development companies, the PPA delivery team has a key role in liaising between all of the stakeholders to achieve consistency.
It provides an opportunity for the council to have a positive influence over the quality of the development proposed for all of the separate delivery parcels and to co-ordinate the delivery of housing and infrastructure and input from all of the various council services.
- Good working dialogue between core teams.
- PPA provides a framework leading to more certainty for both teams.
- The review group allows for ongoing process review.
- PPA allows for better management of resources for both teams.
- The regular meetings provide a forum for problem solving discussion.
- Developer works in isolation from council services.
- Council has less opportunity to influence the development as its is formulated.
- Adoption issues not dealt with early and cause stumbling blocks later.
- Delivery can be delayed due to submission of unsatisfactory proposals.
- Consequent uncertainty affects viability.