Major changes proposed for planning application process

St Albans district council leader Chris White.

St Albans district council leader Chris White. - Credit: SADC

The biggest shake-up to the local planning applications process for decades is now up for consultation.

Community groups, planning agents, property developers and residents are all encouraged to give their views on the proposals.

Currently, when making a planning application certain information has to be provided so that the proposed development can be accurately assessed, but St Albans district council (SADC) is considering a number of significant changes to this process.

These include the requirement of a Climate Change Statement for any major developments, applicants in the Sandridge and St Stephen parishes would have to take into account newly-published Neighbourhood Plans, and there would also be reference to the most recent fire safety legislation.

People responding to the consultation will be asked a series of questions about these Local Validation Lists and can suggest changes of their own. Have your say at stalbans.gov.uk/consultations before September 26.

All feedback will be considered before the proposals are finalised with the new Lists due to become operational in November.

Council leader Cllr Chris White, who is also lead councillor with responsibility for planning, said: “This is a timely review of the Validation Lists as new fire safety regulations are coming into force while the importance of tackling climate change has never been more pressing.

“The proposed changes encompass all of that and are designed to ensure that applicants know what supporting information they must provide along with a planning application.

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“This should quicken the entire process and bring down costs as well with council staff spending less time chasing up information.

“I’d urge anyone in the district with an interest in the planning application process to take part in the consultation. We want to hear from as many people as possible.”

In another initiative, a meeting of Full Council has agreed to a proposal to streamline the number of planning committees that deal with development applications, reducing the four committees for specific geographic areas to one district-wide committee.

Councillors and town and parish councils will be more involved in pre-application discussions to ensure community views are aired at the earliest opportunity.

The changes to the committee structure came into force on Monday and will be reviewed after six months.

Cllr White added: “This is a very sensible move that brings us into line with other local authorities of a comparable size and makes our planning process more efficient.

“Applicants will be better able to gauge the view of the community to their proposals and make any necessary changes before they finalise their applications.”