Say Hello To The PINS Consents Service Unit

Today's entry reports on the launch of the Planning Inspectorate's Consents Service Unit.

Last Monday saw the low-key launch of a new unit in the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) intended to assist with the co-ordination of other consents before and during the examination of Planning Act applications.


When the Planning Act was a twinkle in the (previous) government's eye, one of its main aims was to reduce the number of separate consents that were required for the same project. The oft-quoted Heathrow Terminal 5 project required 37 applications to be made, and a very early blog entry analysed whether the Planning Act would have reduced this to one application (not quite). The Planning Act was thus intended to be a 'one stop shop' for consents as far as could be achieved. Quite a few consents, however, required the agreement of the consenting body before they could be disapplied by a Development Consent Order (DCO), and in the early days of the regime, consenting bodies were routinely refusing to allow this.

In parallel with this, the government asked Adrian Penfold of British Land to consider how to improve the system of non-planning consents - he identified over 80 and made several streamlining suggestions in his final report of July 2010. One of his recommendations was:

Putting in place clear rules of engagement between planning authorities and the different non-planning consent decision makers to ensure that, where appropriate, the latter give substantive advice to the planning decision maker(s), identifying 'show-stoppers' and significant mitigation costs to help inform their decision of principle (G.4)

During the passage of what is now the Growth and Infrastructure Act there were further calls for the concept of a 'one stop shop' to be more fully realised for applications using the Planning Act regime.

From November 2012 to January 2013 the government consulted on the one stop shop issue and while falling short of combining all consents into a single development consent, proposed that little-used ones be able to be combined, and that others would be actively managed by PINS to ensure that they didn't hold up the main consent. Twelve consents were earmarked for these 'bespoke consent management arrangements'.

In January 2013, PINS also produced revised pre-application guidance that among other things sought to stop the routine refusal of bodies allowing other consents to be disapplied by DCOs:

the bodies that would normally be...

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