What is a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA)? A Guide
Planning performance agreements are agreements that are sometimes used in development and planning. Here’s exactly what a planning performance agreement is, when one might be used and how it works.
What Exactly is a Planning Performance Agreement?
A planning performance agreement is an agreement that is made between an applicant who applies for planning permission and the local planning authority. The applicant may be a developer and the local planning authority will usually be the local council.
A planning performance agreement, which is sometimes known as a PPA, will set down a framework for how the planning application will be handled and what timescales will apply.
In simple terms a planning performance agreement is a project management tool.
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Why are Planning Performance Agreements Used?
Planning law specifies exactly how planning applications must be handled by local planning authorities. It specifies what an applicant must do and how the planning authority or local council must handle the application. It sets down statutory timescales: For example, depending on type validated applications should be determined within 8, 13 or 16 weeks. There is also a ‘planning guarantee’ of 26 weeks.
While this system works for many types of planning application it is quite inflexible. It is not suitable for every type of application, particularly large and complex developments which may need a longer period to process. A planning performance agreement enables an applicant and a local planning authority to agree to handle the application in a different way and to a different timescale.
The Advantages of Planning Performance Agreements
One advantage of a PPA is that it enables more co-operation and collaboration in the planning process. Applicants and planning officers are able or should be able to work together to process the application. An agreement also enables transparency.
The use of a planning performance agreement may mean that the application is more likely to be successful than otherwise. Unnecessary rejections and appeals due to small technical details may be avoided. Ultimately it may save the applicant time and money compared to the normal planning route.
The use of a planning performance agreement may also mean that a higher quality new development that fits in with the local area better might be possible.
When Planning Performance Agreements are Used
PPAs can be used for any type of planning application. They are most likely to be used for large or complex applications however. A planning performance agreement may be used for a large housing development, a large retail or commercial development.
Other situations where a planning performance agreement might be used include applications which have implications for the local plan, where a Supplementary Planning Document or SPD is being developed, where a masterplan is being developed or where there are a number of related projects/applications on the same site.
Planning performance agreements might also be used with a planning application which has strategic importance or which could prove controversial for some reason.
Paragraph 46 of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2021 for England & Wales advises that applicants and local planning authorities should consider the use of a planning performance agreement where this might be faster and more effective.
Different local councils apply slightly different guidelines to whether a planning performance agreement could be used in a planning application or not.
PPAs are unlikely to be used for household planning applications.
In Scotland processing agreements are used for similar reasons.
How a Planning Performance Agreement Works
There is no fixed method for how a PPA is used and what it might incorporate. The way in which such an agreement is to be used may be agreed individually by the applicant and the local authority.
Here is broadly how a planning performance agreement might be used however:
- Planning performance agreements are voluntary agreements. Applicants do not have to use planning performance agreements and planning authorities do not have to agree to use them.
A PPA is considered to be a memorandum of understanding and is not a binding legal contract.
- A local planning authority will normally only agree to a planning performance agreement if the application is likely to be granted in principle.
- A planning performance agreement needs to be agreed prior to the submission of a planning application. Agreements can be used through the application process and also at the post-application stage.
- The main parties to a planning performance agreement are the applicant and planning authority or local council. Other parties may be invited to join it however, such as statutory consultees.
Once agreed all parties to the agreement need to sign it.
- Parties agreeing to a performance agreement are generally expected to adhere to the Planning Performance Agreement Charter.
- There is no single model form for what a planning performance agreement should include.
The Local Government Association suggests there are three broad types of agreement: Type 1 (simple PPA), Type 2 (medium PPA) and Type 3 (comprehensive PPA).
At the very least an agreement should comprise a timetable for the application.
Planning performance agreements can also cover matters beyond the actual application process to include any section 106 agreement and related non-planning consents.
Key issues to consider when discussing a planning performance agreement include the development vision, development objectives, parties to be involved, resources required, costs involved, a timescale and key or milestone dates.
- Once in place an application governed by a planning performance agreement proceeds in the normal way. For example, statutory consultees will be consulted (and may be a party to the agreement) and a programme of community engagement and consultation can be incorporated.
- Once a planning performance agreement is in place the statutory time limits for determining an application no longer apply. The application should instead be determined within the time limits set down in the agreement.
- A planning performance agreement does not change the statutory powers of the local planning authority, nor will it affect their impartiality or the outcome of the application.
- A planning performance agreement does not prevent the applicant from exercising their right of appeal under planning law should the application be refused.
How Much Does a Planning Performance Agreement Cost?
There is no fee for a planning performance as such. However, the applicant may be expected to make a payment to the local planning authority to cover the time and resources that they will need to commit to an application which is being pursued under such as agreement.
An advantage for the applicant is that this should enable the planning authority to commit extra time and resources to the application which would not otherwise be possible due to limited funding.
Is a Planning Performance Agreement the Same as Pre-Application Advice?
Pre-application advice or engagement is a process where an applicant discusses their project with local planning officers before actually making a planning application. The planning officers may then offer advice on whether the application is likely to be approved and/or what issues may be problematic.
Pre-application advice is not the same as a planning performance agreement. A planning performance agreement may come about as a result of pre-application engagement and advice however.
Does a Planning Performance Agreement Make it More Likely Planning Consent will be Granted?
The use of a planning performance agreement does not guarantee that planning permission will be granted it itself. The use of such an agreement does not give the application preferential status nor commit a planning authority to grant an application.
However, it is possible that a planning performance agreement will make it more likely that an application is granted because it gives a better opportunity for the details to be discussed and agreed before a decision is made.