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News & Insight

Royal Tunbridge Wells Town Centre Plan ‘Call for Sites’

7th July 2023

Planning permission is vital in realising the full value of land but the process to get there can prove complex and is challenging to navigate at the best of times. If you’re a landowner looking to maximise your land value, getting your site allocated for development can add some much-needed clarity and certainty.

All local planning authorities are required to produce a local plan which sets out their policies for acceptable forms of development in their area. As part of this, they are required to allocate land to meet targets for achieving growth for housing and employment purposes.

By having land included as a site allocation for a particular use, it makes it much more likely to obtain planning permission later down the line as the principle of development would already have been established.

The site allocation process is by no means an easy option and can take several years and goes through several lengthy stages. Despite this, it can certainly be worth pursuing as the uplift in land value can be considerable.

One of the key stages to look out for is the council’s Call for Sites which is where they invite landowners, developers, and residents to identify land that may have development potential which they then formally consider.

At this stage, councils will only look at very narrow criteria to decide whether your site should be considered for allocation:

  • Suitability: For example, does your site relate well to an existing settlement? Does it flood? Is it in a historic area or a protected landscape? Can it be safely accessed?
  • Achievability: This focuses more on technical matters such as the topography of the land, and whether there are any obviously contamination, noise, or drainage issues that would preclude the site from being developed in an acceptable way.
  • Availability: This is based on whether a landowner is willing to release the land for development. The involvement of a landowner is a key part of satisfying this test.

There are several complications with promoting land in this way.

All councils work to their own individual programmes and timescales for producing their local plans so it can be hard to know when the right time might be to promote your site – you don’t want to miss the boat and have to wait for the next round of sites to be considered, which can take years.

The assessment the council undertakes to initially establish whether sites are suitable, achievable, and available are generally desktop exercises meaning that the full potential of sites may not be realised, and councils will not allocate sites where they believe a certain threshold of development is not achievable. They may also make assumptions about whether the land is available for development opportunities.

Following the Call for Sites exercise, there are several further stages before a local plan is formally adopted which do present other opportunities to have your say.

In some cases, landowners get the opportunity to submit evidence and promote their site through consultation exercises. Any such evidence should be demonstrated:

  • That your site is needed to meet local needs.
  • The reasons why your site is suitable for such development.
  • Why your site is better than the other sites being considered for allocation?

Our understanding of the process and possible pitfalls can help gauge whether your land has the potential for allocation and put forward a robust case to help the council make its consideration.

If you’re a landowner thinking about submitting your site for allocation, we can help by offering a full site appraisal, Call for Sites submission, and preparing professional representations to maximise your chances of land allocation success at the various stages of the process.

The Rural Planning Practice

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