The Department of the Environment is to introduce a new way for people to get advice before they submit an official planning application.
A new two track approach will mean people get the department’s clear view on a proposal to build, extend or change the use of land or buildings before they submit their application.
Currently Islanders can get advice from the Planning department before they commission detailed plans in a number of ways, including by email, letter, telephone, face to face meetings or by calling into South Hill without an appointment.
The new approach will categorise proposals as either minor or major. Minor schemes are typically small extensions, alterations and similar. Major schemes are likely to be one or more new buildings, changes of use and other more complex developments.
People with minor proposals will still be able to get advice over the counter at Planning’s South Hill offices, without appointment, or via telephone to the duty planning officer.
Those with major proposals who want pre-application advice will be able to submit preliminary plans and meet planning officers to discuss the proposals in more detail.
The department will also have informal discussions with highways, drainage and heritage officers, where necessary. Officers will then review the information submitted and give an opinion in a pre-application advice statement, within four to six weeks. The statements will be comprehensive and will, for example, cover planning policy, drainage, size, siting, design, and impact on the landscape and neighbours.
Director of Development Control, Peter Le Gresley said: “We plan to tighten up the current, rather informal process and believe this new approach will lead to fewer delays, less unnecessary financial outlay for applicants and a more rigorous process. It’ll be thorough and unambiguous and the applicant can rely on the advice given as being the department’s definitive view on a scheme.”
He added that the advisory service provided by the department was dependent, to some extent, on the quality and amount of information received. “Generally speaking, the more information people provide to the department, the more specific and reliable its advice will be.”
“What I would emphasis though is that while the department may give its informed opinion on a proposed application, the planning process is a public one, and everyone in Jersey has the right to give their view on an application. That may raise issues that the department was not aware of. Additionally, the Minister or Planning Applications Panel may make a different judgement on a scheme to the department, and so won’t therefore, be bound by the department’s advice.”
The Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the changes. Chief Executive Ian Taylor commented: “Chamber have had regular meetings with Planning and have had constructive discussions as to how improvements to the whole process can be made. Planning are to be congratulated as the aim of these measures is to speed up the process and cut costs which are real disincentives to major projects that the construction industry and the Island needs to progress.”
President of the Association of Jersey Architects, Carlo Riva, said: “The AJA fully support all measures by the Planning Department, which seek to reduce development risk and associated costs. These measures will certainly contribute to these goals. The receipt of considered, professional pre-application advice which carries some weight during a subsequent planning application process will certainly help.”
The new two track pre-application process will start next week.