Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) guidance and framework

Within this section is comprehensive guidance on putting together a PPA. You will find at the end of this section a PPA framework for you to download and adapt for your own purposes. As well as guidance below we have provided detailed guidance notes in the document to help you decide how you want to create your own PPAs.

General guidance

Each PPA is unique to the site it is concerned with, but many will have common attributes. Commonality in approach is therefore possible in some respects, but all PPAs should be bespoke and created to support and enable effective project management and delivery specific to the proposal.  

The PPA may cover any type of proposed development, residential, commercial, mixed, minerals etc. and any scale of development, but is often used for larger scale complex schemes where enhanced project management and delivery capacity is desirable. The PPA may cover any part of the development process and is most often used for the pre-application to consent stage. Because of this the framework approach is used to help guide the production of a PPA.  

We have been told that those involved in PPAs wish to see shorter, simpler documents that focus on the key matters and our framework reflects this. You and the applicant / partners may feel you need more detail in your PPA and that is fine; the key principles are of proportionality and suitability to circumstance. There are a range of different formats that can be used for PPAs; clarity and certainty are helpful, but templates should nevertheless be seen as flexible, negotiable and adaptable to ensure they create the most effective opportunity for a PPA specific to the proposal. PAS advocates you working with the applicant  / partners to determine what precise form of PPA suits you best in each circumstance. 

At the very least, a PPA is a project management tool, but if all parties approach a PPA with a positive mindset then they can achieve many more outcomes such as: better collaboration and engagement; better working relationships; securing dedicated resources; creating certainty and reducing risk; better applications; and ultimately better development and places. It is an opportunity for LPAs and the applicant to focus efforts on matters that are important to them and their local area.

The process

PPA process


The creation of a PPA can be modelled against six key stages, identified as follows: 

Stage 1: Inception 

It is assumed that the Council and the applicant understand what a PPA is and have agreed that a PPA is the most appropriate vehicle. The first task is to agree the purpose of the PPA with the applicant. In most cases it will be principally used as a project management tool to identify key tasks, milestones, responsibilities and resourcing the work. It is also important to jointly agree the vision for the site that the PPA relates.  The PPA may identify what work over and above a normal planning application is required, and also how it is to be resourced.  

We recommend that an inception workshop is held with the applicant and any other third parties who will sign the agreement such as statutory consultees and that this is held as early as possible to scope out the PPA. For particularly complex proposals, you may find it helpful to bring in a third party to act as facilitator/chair to help you and the applicant to focus and agree on the key outputs. If the project is fairly straightforward or where you have an existing relationship with the applicant and knowledge of the site then a formal workshop may not be necessary and could be a short meeting. Ideally, a senior officer who will have corporate responsibility for the PPA should attend the inception meeting and should be identified in the project team below.  

Each PPA should be bespoke and compiled in a collaborative manner. The process of putting a PPA together should not be an industry in itself, and every effort should be made to get agreement swiftly and details of what needs to be included identified. This guidance and the PPA template should assist this process. Key questions which could form the basis of an agenda to consider include: 

  • What is the purpose of the PPA? 

  • What is the service that is being provided?  

  • What is the vision for the site? 

  • Who should be in the project team? (internal and external) 

  • What are the key issues for the site? (and how does that inform who needs to be involved?) 

  • What other key stakeholders should be involved?

  • What should the project plan look like?

  • What are the key tasks to be resolved and who will take a lead? 

  • What are the the key dates and timescales? 

  • How are you going to work together?  

  • Are there any performance commitments? 

  • How is the project being resourced? 

  • What payments will be made and when? 

It is really important to be clear on the deliverability of the PPA. Do not sign up to a timescale or an action that you can’t achieve or control. You need to recognise the organisations or tasks you do not have control over and how they may impact the programme.  

It is important to try and involve those other partners such as Statutory Consultees at the earliest opportunity and secure their advice on estimates of key tasks and milestones and their involvement that can be reflected in the PPA.  The PPA itself can reflect their expected engagement and they can be signatures to the PPA to ensure overall effectiveness.  

PPAs are usually used on large scale and / or complex applications. The risks associated with such schemes if something doesn’t go well are usually higher too. Therefore, they should be considered as important projects that are corporate matters of strategic importance rather than simply a “planning / Development Management project”. As part of this, the organisation needs to recognise that these applications should be resourced and prioritised accordingly to ensure effective and successful implementation and outcomes.  

Stage 2: Draft PPA  

Once the PPA inception meeting has been held, it is important to quickly draft the agreement, circulate to all parties and get agreement to proceed. Ideally you will use the inception workshop to populate the framework, but it is likely that the Local Authority will take the lead in pulling together all relevant information and circulating a draft PPA.  

Remember, the PPA is not legally binding so shouldn’t need any input from the legal team in this respect.  It is designed to create a framework and construct for partnership working and project management and should be approached as such. However, you may want to advise your legal team on this template and the recommended approach so they are fully aware and can advise on anything specific required in the PPA for your organisation, or indeed simply to be mindful of the approach being taken.  If a legal agreement is involved in the PPA process your legal team will also need to sign up to the timescales agreed in the PPA. 

Stage 3: Sign PPA 

Once the draft PPA has been agreed by all parties it is important to keep up momentum and finalise the agreement by adding the signatures of the leads for each organisation. For the LPA it is suggested that the Chief Planner, Director, or Head of Service signs the PPA. However this depends on the level of delegation afforded in your authority – you may wish to check this. It is important to demonstrate that the PPA and associated proposition is a corporate priority and senior officers in the Council are supportive and responsible. Equally, it is important that the applicant is reassured that if something does not go to plan then a senior officer is taking responsibility.  

It is important that you also invoice the applicant for any fees due. Each Council will have its own way of recovering fees. You may need to invoice the applicant or direct them to pay directly via your website.  

You may choose to publish the PPA on your website (particularly if it is part of a planning application) for transparency purposes. You may also want to make sure that all signatories are aware of your intention to do so as to avoid any misunderstandings. If you do this remember to redact any personal information and advise the signatures that this is happening.  

Stage 4: Implement PPA 

Once signed it is important to set up the project and start key tasks.  Some of the key tasks will be to: 

  • arrange meetings linked to key milestones and diarise the project, including the PPA project review meetings;  

  • raise invoices if payments are to be made;  

  • procure consultants if needed;  

  • put resources in place; 

  • set up working groups as necessary. 

It is also important to make sure you have appropriate monitoring mechanisms in place, such as recording time spent on PPAs. This will be helpful in future to provide realistic estimates of time.  

Stage 5: Project review 

It is important to regularly review the PPA and the collaboration to make sure it is going as intended and these project review meetings should be built in to the programme. We have suggested monthly interactions in the template but the frequency will be specific to the project. Usually the review meetings will be held with the leads for each organisation. Things to review at each meeting include: 

  • The project plan – is it on track?  

  • Key milestones dates – are they still accurate? 

  • Is the work in alignment with the vision for the site? 

  • Does the project have enough resources? 

  • Are invoicing arrangements and payments on time and accurate?  

  • Are the principles of collaboration still accurate?  

  • Are you achieving the outcomes you thought you would? 

  • Has the brief been adhered to or strayed from original purpose? 

  • Does the PPA need any amendments?  

In addition to the regular project review meetings you should monitor the effectiveness of the PPA by considering how your team interacts, coordinates their activities and records their time spent on the project. Through this review process you will be able to monitor how the various actions identified in the PPA are being undertaken.  

Stage 6: Project closure  

At the end of the PPA, whether that is through the determination of the planning application or another chosen end date / event, it is important to undertake a project review. This should not be too onerous and should involve all parties who have signed up to the PPA process. If you have undertaken regular project meetings as in stage 5 this should be straightforward. You should reflect on both the outcomes and outputs and if they matched what was envisaged, as well as the effectiveness of the process and approach. Consider what worked well and where things could have improved. It is also important for the LPA to consider the actual time spent on the PPA activities against what was envisaged. This will help to provide better estimates for future PPAs. Questions you may want to consider include: 

  • Was the application valid when submitted? Were all the required documents and plans provided? 

  • Were the original milestones met? If not, why not? 

  • Did you estimate the amount of resource that was required accurately?  

  • How was the process for you and the applicant?  

  • Do you have better working relationship? 

  • Were there any unexpected issues arising?  

  • Did anything outside of your control happen that impacted on progress? 

  • Were the identified outcomes and outputs achieved?  


Resourcing a PPA

When a planning application is complex and there is a need for particularly robust project management, then resourcing a project can be complex and particularly demanding. PPAs can play a key role here in identifying and also actually providing resources to enable effective project management and a dedicated professional officer resource reflective of the demands of the application. There may be a need for an officer to dedicate a significant percentage of their time to the application. It is important for the project management effectiveness to ensure that there is consistency in the personnel involved in working on the site / applications to which the PPA relates. PPAs could be written to last for a long time (there are examples of 10 years plus on large strategic sites) so having an officer with knowledge and experience of the site is very beneficial for the LPA and the applicant.  

Consider putting together a team of officers to support the lead case officer. This is a good opportunity to offer development opportunities to more junior and less experienced members of staff and also an opportunity to reduce the burden of work on the case officer. On complex schemes where there are a large number of consultation responses or files, it may be also helpful to have dedicated business / administrative support officers. You may additionally find it helpful to have a dedicated PPA officer who specifically acts as project manager and is responsible for the smooth running of this and other PPAs (setting up meetings, chasing responses, organising invoices etc). This is not a necessity but a nice to have and is likely to only be applicable in LPAs where you have a number of PPAs in progress at any one time and where it can be difficult to keep track of the various projects. This type of role is akin to a programme manager and doesn’t need to be a planner.  

It is important that where dedicated officer(s) time needs to be resourced by charging a fee secured in association with the PPA, that you price up and plan in the same way that a private consultant team might for a commercial job i.e. hourly rate and an estimate of time per week / month. It is equally important to have transparency in the fees you charge and it is good practice to publish these on your website and make applicants aware of them. It is important to reflect true employee cost by including items such as the cost of wages, National Insurance, pension, building costs etc. Your finance and/or HR teams should be able to help you to identify and hourly or daily rate. PAS have prepared a pre-app fees calculator that might be of assistance here as well.  

If you need to bring in external support / specialists, then it is important to agree with the applicant / partners how this will be resourced. If a partner is covering the cost, then the LPA should procure the expertise and include the cost of the commission in the PPA.  

 It is important to ensure that regular reviews of work are undertaken and invoicing takes place at key agreed times. If meetings or particular pieces of work are not required, then there should be the flexibility to return money to the applicant or to amend a further invoice to take account of the changes made to the PPA. In the same way if additional meetings or work is required that was not envisaged in the original PPA there should be a mechanism for agreeing further charges. 

PPAs can be a really helpful way of securing funding to provide additional resources where the LPA is stretched due to vacancies or existing work pressures, or simply due to the particularly challenging and demanding nature of the proposition. Section 93 of the Local Government Act 2003 allows local planning authorities to charge for providing discretionary services but the charge should not exceed the cost of providing the service.  

Some Councils use fees from PPAs to bring in additional resource via consultants or agency staff. Most LPAs find it beneficial to use their own staff for the PPA though and use the consultant or agency staff instead to backfill their workload. There may also be instances where the LPA decides to utilise the fee to secure support to work directly on the PPA. It is important that if this is the case that they are managed effectively and where possible the LPA puts a team from within the LPA around them for consistency, resilience and for capacity building.  

You also need to be mindful that consultants and agency staff will inevitably be more expensive than salaried staff and these costs should be recognised within the PPA costs. 

Procurement and budgeting

If you will need to bring in external resources, be that from a consultant or agency staff, it is important to understand the process your organisation has for doing this and the timescales associated with it. Do not leave it until a PPA is signed before you start considering procurement. Some procurement can take several months depending on the contract value and this may need to be built in to the PPA timetable.  

Details of how your organisation’s procurement rules operate will usually be found in the Council’s Financial Regulations or Standing Orders. It is important to familiarise yourself with these and speak to your Finance team for advice on the best way of securing additional support. If there are certain skill sets you need to secure on an irregular basis it may be beneficial to set up a call off contract with a number of suppliers to cover a number of years. A call off contract is when you have a contract with a supplier for a fixed period of time with fixed rates. There is no obligation to use them during this time but you would usually indicate the likely value of total use.  An alternative would be to use a procurement Framework.  

It is also important that your budgets and the Council’s financial system are set up to make it easy to utilise any income. You may need to  investigate the preferred method of receiving payment. Some PPAs may bring a significant fee income and also require significant associated expenditure. Some Councils require Committee approval for expenditure over certain levels, which is an important consideration that needs planning for. Speak to your finance team to make sure you have income lines and expenditure lines dedicated to PPAs are established so that you are not delayed by governance issues.  

The PPA framework document

Please now download this PPA framework document and adapt to meet your individual requirements

Here is the same framework document without the guidance notes