Business leaders to be formally consulted over major planning applications in Leeds city region

Eastgate, Leeds - a major development

Business leaders are to be formally consulted over major planning applications throughout large parts of Yorkshire.

The Leeds City Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – a business-led organisation that channels public money towards private sector growth in the region – is being granted a “consultative role” after complaining pretty vociferously over the way local authorities handle such planning applications.

The decision to give the LEP this “consultative role” was taken at the beginning of last month at a meeting of the leaders of the 11 local authorities who make up the board of the Leeds City Region. Details of the meeting have just been released.

They decided too that each local authority would “explore how best to improve their approach to dealing with planning applications for major developments as part of their annual review of committee roles and responsibilities”.

Exactly which major planning applications the LEP is going to get involved in remains to be decided. A protocol is going to be drawn up that will set out the “criteria for identifying appropriate major applications for consultation with the LEP Board”.

“Challenge councils’ effectiveness”

Westfield, Bradford - a major development

What has the LEP been complaining about?

Well, the LEP believes that current planning processes are “a great barrier to development” and says that what the private sector wants is for the LEP to take “a more proactive strategic role in creating a more supportive environment for investment”.

“The LEP Board has expressed concerns about the current role of Planning in facilitating investment and an appetite to challenge the effectiveness of Local Planning Authorities in this role,” the LCR council leaders heard in a report.

What the LEP say is urgently needed is a “consistent, simplified process… if we are to offer a competitive advantage in terms of attracting investment”.

Developers’ pressure group

Now the LEP admits that its views on the matter have been informed by developers – specifically by a “Planning Reform Group” made up of developers affiliated to the local chambers of commerce.

It’s not clear who is in this Planning Reform Group, what its status is within the local chambers, or whether this “consultative role” that’s now been granted to the LEP will satisfy its demands.

It does appear, however, that the local authority leaders in the LCR leaders’ board are not going to be a pushover.

“Local authorities do need to constructively challenge the views of the Planning Reform Group on how effective planning is in facilitating investment,” the report to the leaders’ board said.

It’ll be interesting to see how this new “consultative role” for the LEP works when it’s tried out for the first time on a real live major planning application.

Watch this space.

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