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In Part 1 we explored how important it is to understand the planning process and to ensure that proposals are backed by strong strategic thinking and are well thought through. However, at Landscope, we also believe that good Planning and development is fundamentally people-centred; working with people as well as for people - planning for homes, for communities, and for employment opportunities, to build a strong society. As it is such a complex, multilayered process, it also requires the input of multiple parties throughout a project’s life. Being people-centred and good at engaging with others is also therefore essential for successful outcomes in planning and development. 
 
In this second part of what we think makes great planning, here are some thoughts on how building strong collaborative relationships can help deliver a good solution for all parties. 
The National Planning Policy Framework encourages all those preparing and submitting planning applications to proactively engage with stakeholders from an early stage in order to front-load development proposals. But this need for being able to understand how others think and feel about development runs throughout the whole process, both internally and externally. 
1. The first group of stakeholders are the Landowners and developers for whom planning and development may be critical to their commercial operation or family succession by maximising the value of their land holding. Identifying development opportunities and presenting them to landowners is often an important first step in the process. Understanding their businesses or family relationships is therefore also important when assessing development opportunities. 
 
2. Engaging Communities. In recent decades planning policy has been geared towards delivering new development close to existing settlements, with existing communities. Development is all too often seen as negative in the first instance, particularly in settlements where there has been previous unpopular development. However, building strong relationships with the right stakeholders within a community, can significantly improve the way that new development is perceived.  
It is important to understand communities’ perspectives and to build proposals which deliver benefits and meet community needs, beyond just new housing. Key stakeholders may include a range of local organisations and amenity groups, including Parish Councils, Neighbourhood Plan groups, local interest committees such as for village halls, sports and social clubs, local businesses, Church and other religious bodies. 
Even before holding a formal community engagement event, to present the development to the local population, it can be a good idea to engage these stakeholders, to get their input to help shape the proposal with the community in mind. 
 
3. The technical specialists. Almost without exception, planning applications require supporting specialist technical input. This includes a wide range of potential impact considerations, including ecology, biodiversity, landscape, flood risk assessment, drainage, archaeology, transport assessment, highways, noise, land contamination, land classification, Topographical Survey and Heritage. The requirements of each individual project will vary. Building good relationships with specialist technical suppliers can really help to shorten timeframes and support the application. At Landscope we have built good relationships with a range of consultants, whose work we know and trust. This also helps to ensure competitive quotes. 
4. The Planning Department in the Local Planning Authority. The Town Planners within the Local Planning Authority can often be seen as the adversary. However, engaging with Local Authority planners by presenting strong, well thought through schemes, based on a sound understanding of current planning policies, helps to build a good and productive relationship with them. There is no avoiding the fact that the Planning Team play a pivotal part in the process, but knowing how best to do that can only help individual projects. It is a negotiation process and thinking broadly and creatively can help to address Officers’ concerns before minor issues become a problem. 
5. Statutory Consultees. Once a planning application has been submitted and registered by the Local Authority, the Planning Team will consult several key statutory consultees within the LPA. These include essentially a mirror of the technical specialists, such as the Highways Officer, Ecology Officer, Arboriculture Officer, Environmental Health Officer, Conservation Officer and Drainage Officer. In addition, the Planner will consult with statutory organisations such as the local Water and Utilities Companies, Natural England, Historic England and other external parties. In our experience, there are channels through which we can engage with these specialist consultees, prior to or during submission of an application to maximise it’s chance of a successful outcome. 
 
6. Your Ward Councillor can play a valuable role in supporting a development proposal or specific planning application. The involvement of Councillors is designed to ensure an element of democracy in the planning system. Each Council has a Planning Committee which considers and determines a number of the more complex, larger scale applications. Councillors also have the right to ‘call in’ an application, once it has been submitted for determination by committee, rather than purely delegated officer powers. For these more potentially contentious applications, we generally engage with local ward councillors before the application is submitted. This ensures that the elected councillor is more likely to be supportive rather than feeling disregarded. 
By now, no doubt, you will be beginning to appreciate just how many, and the diversity of people involved in the Planning System. Building collaborative relationships is a key skill of the Planning Consultant. Using trained and qualified specialists helps you to reduce the risk of getting it wrong at any stage of the process, whoever you are engaging with within and outside the Local Planning Authority. 
 
The next in this blog series ‘What Makes Great Planning?’ is also the 3rd and final part. We will look at How driving through the detail is another essential skill in the Planning Consultant’s portfolio of skills. 
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