According to Planning magazine the use of Planning Performance Agreements is driving change in how local planning departments are funded and contractual arrangements for planning officers.
Mike Kiely, Chair of the Board at the Planning Officers Society, explained that PPAs set out a timetable that a local authority will follow for considering major applications. "For the developer, the agreements provide certainty about when their schemes will be considered, and they get a dedicated officer to oversee the process," he said.
Fees from PPAs are making an increasing contribution to planning department budgets, according to Kiely. "The government first put PPAs on the planning agenda in 2001, but they were rarely used until about 2010, when the cuts began to affect planning departments," he suggested.
Westminster City Council introduced PPAs in 2011 and now earns more than £1 million a year from the agreements, according to John Walker, its director of planning and Secretary of the POS London Region. He said that, in 2010, his authority went out to the major developers to seek their help in funding a shortfall in the planning department's budget. "The level of contribution that they were prepared to pay then now forms the basis of the fee which the council requires when a PPA is signed," he said. According to Walker, the council's PPA fee for a major scheme is £26,000 and £15,000 for a complex but smaller proposal.
Walker said that he funds 15 planning officer posts through PPA payments, but he expects this to rise to 20 in the next couple of months. "There is always a named officer responsible for overseeing the processing of the scheme subject to a PPA, but that officer may work across several projects and the posts are not tied to a fee paid to process a particular scheme," he explained.
Mike Kiely John Walker