Ongoing efforts to improve the planning system

One of the protocols relates to major developments, such as onshore windfarms.
One of the protocols relates to major developments, such as onshore windfarms.

Three planning protocols, relating to key aspects of the process, look set to be approved later this year as part of the overhaul of the system.

Northumberland County Council’s planning service had been under increasing pressure to improve performance and meet targets, leading to proposals for a major shake-up, many of which were approved in May.

Now, three new protocols have been developed, governing major developments, the pre-application process and section 106 agreements.

The latter usually relate to the provision of affordable housing, or funding for it off-site, or contributions to community facilities.

A report to the council’s cabinet and economic scrutiny committee says: ‘Collectively, the three protocols will shape how the planning service will be delivered in Northumberland moving forward with specific provisions being put in place for greater member, town/parish council and local community involvement in the planning process’.

The protocols ‘will not only ensure openness and transparency in the decision-making process, but will also assist in the delivery of an efficient, effective and proactive service’.

Changes already made to system

There are now three centralised planning committees – strategic planning, planning and rights of way committee and the planning and performance committee. These replaced the three area and one central committee and now all meet at 2pm at County Hall, rather than in the evenings.

Town and parish councils lost their automatic trigger to send applications to committee, but any delegated decisions with a valid town or parish council objection can be referred by the committee chairmen or by an elected member in writing.