Cheshire East Council is warning developers to stick to their promises when it comes to planning conditions – or face a crackdown to halt developments.
Councillor Toni Fox, the authority's cabinet member for planning, said tough enforcement action will be taken if developers continue to flout agreements and treat planning conditions 'as a tick-box exercise'.
Cheshire East remains one of the busiest planning authorities in the country and has been subject to a significant number of housing applications.
Planning permission is often granted 'subject to conditions', which enable the detail of the development to be agreed either before the work begins or by a set time within the construction process. These conditions can range from agreeing the colour of materials, through to technical matters involving contaminated land and drainage.
Central government policies and planning guidance have sought to minimise the use of conditions and specifically reduce the need for pre-commencement conditions, as much as possible, as they are often seen as a delay to development.
Cheshire East Council has embraced this approach and tries to strike a reasonable balance that seeks to minimise the number of conditions on applications and work flexibly to enable developments, particularly housing, to be delivered in a timely manner.
However, it has become increasingly apparent that developers are not allowing sufficient time for the necessary conditions to be carried out properly and that some developments are continuing without the necessary permissions.
This undermines the original planning permission, the potential safeguards to make the development acceptable (via conditions) and understandably causes residents to question the effectiveness of the planning process and the value of planning conditions.
Cllr Fox said: "Since becoming the portfolio holder for planning in May, I have been contacted on numerous occasions by residents about developments starting before all the details have been agreed. Officers work hard on getting the detail on conditions discharged but all too often they face an uphill battle as developers continue to build.
"This has led to enforcement action and increasing disillusion among residents and our communities, who are coming to feel that the planning conditions imposed by the council are being disregarded by developers and are becoming tick-box exercises that mean little.
"The council wishes to work collaboratively with developers but it has to be within the bounds of the statutory processes. If not, then the system as a whole becomes undermined and trust from residents lost.
"I am, therefore, working with the council's acting head of planning to ensure that the appropriate priority is given to the discharge of conditions and openly advising developers that, if they do not get their appropriate permissions in place, then the council will seek to use its enforcement powers to stop construction."
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