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Engagement the best way to de-risk planning

Lauren Springfield explains the importance of engaging with the Local Development Plan preparation process.

Development is inherently an imprecise and risk-laden process and, for many involved, interacting with the planning system in Scotland is a perceived and proven obstacle to success.

In our experience, the best way to de-risk large and/or complex development projects is to influence planning policy by engaging with the planning system directly.

Here's why the Local Development Plan preparation process is the platform to do just that.

Identify strategic development opportunities:

The LDP preparation process is deliberately designed to provide landowners, developers, investors, stakeholders, communities, and individuals the opportunity early in the preparation lifecycle to meaningfully influence local planning policy and, ultimately, the pattern of future development.

Facilitating engagement to influence local planning policy:

The most effective way to influence local planning policy is by front-loading this process with proactive, managed, and patient engagement, including with the planners themselves.

Preparing concise and effective representations for sites and ideas:

We recently submitted representations for a number of clients to the Cairngorms National Park Authority's "Call for Sites & Ideas", which completed in early February 2017. Our objective was to prepare concise and effective representations that identified positive development opportunities for the client, the Park, and neighbouring communities.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority, like most Planning Authorities, uses this process to welcome the public's planning-related ideas, issues, and to identify development sites. A Main Issues Report is then compiled, outlining all the potential development and policy options for the development area, which is followed by a public consultation period. Once the Cairngorms National Park Authority's MIR is published later this year, we will follow up with our clients to prepare a strategy that ensures their interests are effectively managed throughout this crucial stage.

The value of playing the long game:

During this process we spoke with current and potential clients and heard a spectrum of experiences and viewpoints. While some clients were well aware of the benefits of engaging in the LDP preparation process, and the importance of representing sites and ideas, others were uncertain of the value in "playing the long game". A number expressed concern about the risks in committing resources to engagement when the outcome is not guaranteed. Many questioned the impact their engagement could have in the short- and medium-term given that the LDP preparation process has a five-year lifecycle.

In our experience, the initial investment of resources spent on engagement with the LDP preparation process is often small when compared to the latent value that is unlocked when sites, which otherwise may not be considered suitable for development under existing local planning policies, benefit from favourable planning policies and allocations.

In submitting sites and ideas for consideration by the planning authority there is an opportunity to build a relationship between them and the client. By front-loading engagement, we can de-risk planning.