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Planning Process


The planning process is somewhat of a minefield, the following article will go some way in explaining the likely process that the Kirkby application will go through. The above diagram clearly shows the planning application process with the red arrows clearly showing the likely route the Kirkby planning application will follow.

1: Pre-Application

Before the application is submitted, the developer will approach the Local Planning Authority to seek the informal views of the planning officer on the likelihood of permission being granted. The developer will learn if the proposal would be acceptable subject to certain issues or details being amended or that the proposal is unacceptable in principle (i.e. contrary to policy). Large supermarkets also use this period to build relationships with Councils, do deals and run campaigns in the local press. We know that Tesco have been in discussions for some time with Knowsley MBC along with Everton F.C .

Following on from the early meetings it would have become apparent that the proposed development would have been unacceptable in principle due to policy within the replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and the Regional Spatial Strategy. It would have been at this stage the Interim Policy Statement idea would have been born and commenced in draft form to try and overcome the major stumbling block of the policy implications.

2: Planning Application Submitted

There are two kinds of planning applications that can be submitted; Outline Applications and Full Applications. The Kirkby Development application contains a mix of both, outline permissions is being sought for retail, PCT and office space while full permission is being sought for retail, Football Stadium and a Tesco Superstore.

When the application is made to the Local Authority it will be checked to ensure that all the documentation is correct and the necessary fee has been submitted. Once all this is complete the application will be validated and recorded on the planning register. The Kirkby Development application was received on the 02.01.2008 and validated on the same day. The application will then be assigned to a planning officer or in this case a planning team due to the size and complexity of the proposed development. Following validation it is normal practice for Local Authorities to undertake detailed consultations with the community and various bodies.

The Government have set all Local Authorities 13 weeks for major planning applications to be determined; this will not be the case for this application.

3: Planning Officer and Report with Recommendations

The application will pass onto a case officer who will also deal with the results of the publicity and the consultation exercise. The case officer will visit the site and consider all local, regional and national planning policy and other planning matters not covered by policy. As a direct result of these considerations the planning officer may seek amendments to the proposal. The case officer will then produce a detailed report that summarises the case for and against the application along with a recommendation from the case officer to the Chief Planning Officer either to grant planning permission or to refuse permission, stating reasons in both instances.

Certain applications will be classed as delegated applications and referred to the Chief Planning officer for determination, this usually applies to small scale developments; the Kirkby Development application will be referred to the Elected Planning Committee for determination. It is believed that the Knowsley Planning Application will be recommended for approval with conditions by the Case officer and Chief Planning officer; the main argument will be that even though it departs from both UDP and RSS policy the IPS and the regeneration benefits represent greater material considerations and should be considered to outweigh the UDP.

4: Planning Committee and Decision

The case officers report will be submitted to the elected planning committee, the committee may accept or reject the recommendation of the Chief planning officer to recommend the application. If it rejects a recommendation to grant permission and refuses the application, this must be a decision based upon sound planning judgement. The Planning Committee must consider all the relevant information – anything which relates to the use and development of the land. The most important issue they should consider is what the Development Plan says.

The Knowsley Planning Committee contains 26 elected members with a mix from political parties but with a clear Labour advantage. It is envisaged that the planning committee will side with the Chief Officers report and recommend the application for approval citing the benefits the proposed development will bring to Kirkby and Knowsley.

It is important to remember both the Chief Planning Officer and Planning Committee should have regard to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 when determining applications. A summary is provided below for reference.

The decision-makers duty:

The decision maker (Chief Planning Officer and Planning Committee) in arriving at a decision on a planning application must discharge a legislative duty. Current legislation under section 54A of the Town and Country Planning 1990 Act states “Where in making any determination under the planning acts regard is to be had to the development plan, the determination shall be in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Section 54A has meant that:

  • Greater attention needs to be paid to the development plan policy, section 54A gives more weight to the contents of the Development Plan;
  • A greater degree of certainty in the development process as developers and Local Authorities realise that, if a proposal is in conflict with policy, a presumption exists that permission will be refused.
  • Material considerations will still be of importance in the development process and capable of outweighing policy, yet where policy is adopted and up to date it will carry considerable weight in influencing the decision-making process.

5: Secretary of State

Most planning applications are determined by the Local Planning Authority however, the secretary of state has reserve powers under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to determine a planning application by exercising a right to call in the planning application from the Local Authority. Around 1000 planning applications are called in every year by the Sectary of State in England and of those some 150 will be formally determined. Most of these applications involve large-scale or controversial applications.

If Knowsley MBC wants to approve the Kirkby Development it must first refer the application to the Sectary of State. Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 all applications that do not accord with the Development Plan or contain new shopping floorspace exceeding 20,000sq.m must be referred to the Secretary of State. The total amount of proposed shopping floorspace within the Tesco Stores Limited planning application is more than 60,000sq.m.

4.6 Taking account of the Tesco proposal (10,219 sq m net) would result in total new retail floorspace (including the main town centre uplift) of 63,176 sq m net. From the Retail Assessment of the Tesco Stores Limited planning application;"

The application will either then be referred back to Knowsley MBC for determination or the Secretary of State will use her powers to call in the application for determination. There is a set of defined criteria that will be used when making a decision if the application should be called in;

  • Departs from policies contained in the development plan for the area in question;
  • The application is of greater than local importance;
  • May conflict with national planning policy;
  • Could have significant effects outside its immediate locality;
  • Attracts significant controversy beyond the immediate locality;

If the Sectary of State believes any of these criteria apply to the Kirkby Development application it will be called in for determination, we fully believe that the application greatly departs from local, regional and national policy and will have significant effects outside its immediate locality. For these reasons alone the application will be called in for determination. Most applications that are called in usually result in a public inquiry these can add anywhere in the region of 6-12 months on the application process.

In these circumstances, the case is handled by the Planning Inspectorate, which forms part of the DCLG. The called-in application is considered by a planning inspector appointed by the secretary of state in England or by the National Assembly in Wales.

As well as the evidence from all third parties the planning inspector will also collect evidence of their own, they will be specifically looking at the Unitary Development Plan Policy along with Regional and National Policy.

The inspector will find that the application greatly detracts from the UDP and that the Chief Planning Officer along with the Planning Committee have not used Section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 when coming to their determination. The inspector will also find the application conflicts with a number of key policies set out in Planning Policy Statement 6; Planning for Town Centres (PPS 6), while the application also goes against the overriding aim of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) to promote sustainable patterns of spatial development (Hierarchy of Settlements).

The inspector will then report his or her findings to the secretary of state who will then make an informed decision on the application.

6. Probable Timeline

KEIOC have been made aware that the Knowsley Planning Team are still assessing the responses to the consultation on the Interim Policy Statement (listed as forward plan item K428 on the Knowsley Council website). We understand that they have received a “very significant” response to consultation on the IPS from a wide range of stakeholders. These are currently being “fully considered” before a recommendation on the document (originally Due: 16 Jan 2008) is made to Cabinet. The current target date is to get the report ready for Cabinet on 26th March.

We have also been told that forward plan item K 427 “Kirkby development – approval of development agreement and other associated documents,” (originally Due: 16 Jan 2008) is now scheduled for a Cabinet decision sometime in May.

As for the Planning Committee decision on the Tesco application, no date as of yet, has been set by Knowsley MBC.

Planning Timeline