Power to decline to determine overlapping applications

Since 6 April 2009, section 43 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (the 2004 Act) has been in full force and this provision enables Planning Authorities to refuse dual applications for the same scheme, so called ‘twin tracked’ applications.

Twin tracking has traditionally been a popular method with developers who have found the severe delays in the planning application process both frustrating and costly, caused primarily due to under-resourced Planning Authorities, as well as the ever changing development plan process and national planning policy. The process involved submitting duplicate applications with the intention of forcing the Planning Authority into speeding up the application process, in light of the underlying threat of an appeal for non-determination for the duplicated application. The intention of twin tracking was to force the Planning Authority to approve one of the applications in order to avoid the resources and costs involved as part of an appeal.

Prior to 6 April 2009, Planning Authorities could only refuse to determine a subsequent application where it was identical or closely resembled the application previously refused by the Planning Authority, and where the Planning Authority suspected that a fresh application was submitted with the intention of reducing their objections to the proposed scheme.

Whilst Planning Authorities’ powers to decline to determine overlapping applications have now been greatly expanded, the reality is that the root cause of twin tracking has not yet been eradicated; that is to say, delays due to under resourced planning departments continue to frustrate development, at a time when it is ever important to kick start development by providing an efficient and fast system to secure consents.