But untimely decisions are certainly an indicator of failure and local authorities will be considered to be poor performers where too many applications are dealt with too slowly. In some circumstances and where appropriate, an agreement can be reached with the applicant on what is a reasonable time in which a decision should be made.
For most, it's expected that applications can be dealt with within the 8, 13 or 16 week statutory period, but for some applications a bespoke timetable is appropriate. The timetable for dealing with development applications can be extended beyond the statutory period so long as the council and the applicant agree. Provided the council is then able to meet the new mutually agreed date, an application will be counted as satisfying the timeliness requirement for development applications. This applies to both major and non-major planning applications. The Planning Practice Guidance on time limits for determining planning applications can be found on the MHCLG website
The applicant and the local authority can agree to an extended period for determination through two mechanisms:
- A planning performance agreement, although these may seem disproportionate for less complex, non-major applications (the PAS Pre-applications Suite also contains detailed good practice advice and examples of PPAs.)
*this document contains a reference to Article 29 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010 – the DMPO. The DMPO was updated in 2015 and the relevant reference is now Article 34 The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015.
- An extension of time agreement
Local authorities should ensure that they have robust procedures in place to ensure that if any application seems likely to require additional time to reach a satisfactory outcome, the case officer takes the earliest opportunity to discuss the situation with the applicant and an extension of time is agreed.
The agreements do not need to be complicated or time-consuming to create. PAS has developed 2 examples
of an agreement for the extension of time to determine an application which satisfies the government's reporting requirements and help LPAs to feel more confident in actively managing the application process.
In summary an extension of time agreements needs:
• to be agreed between the council and the applicant or agent acting on the applicant's behalf
• to be recorded in writing
• to set out an end date by which time the planning application will be completed determined and a decision letter issued – including the completion of a s106 agreement
• to encapsulate a realistic timetable assuming that both parties are working with goodwill to complete satisfy issues and determine the application in the shortest time given the resources available.
An extension of time agreement can be completed at any point between registration and determination, so long as the applicant has not registered an appeal against non-determination. For it to count in the statistical performance returns, the extension of time agreement needs to be registered in the authority's planning data records prior to determination.
To answer some of the other questions about the use of extension of time agreements, there is a short question and answer sheet
dealing with the concerns that both councils and development industry representatives have told us about.