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On the verge of a great step forward

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I read with interest Brian Waters' article outlining the contents of a recent Arup report on planning fees and services (AJ 26.2.04). As Waters suggests, the processing of applications through a preferred authority or certified private consultancy, as now happens with Building Regulations submissions, may be a great step forward.

We operate a 'partnering' arrangement with Birmingham Building Control, whereby we have a handshake agreement that we will submit all of our Building Regulations applications across the country through Birmingham. The result is that we have a single point of contact for all our submissions regardless of size or location. We have preapplication advice on tap, our applications are dealt with much more speedily than in the past, and when problems are encountered the surveyor works positively to help us solve them.

Although development control is, of course, subject to much more variation from authority to authority than building control, due in part to the differing demands and constraints in each local authority's development plans, our partnering experience for Building Regulations applications suggests that something similar would be of great benefit to us and our clients.

Our ongoing dealings with a notoriously poorly performing London planning authority reinforce this view.We have submitted a mixed-use scheme for planning approval, costing our client £22,000 in application fees. However, the service our client has received for this notinconsiderable fee has been appalling - for example, two months to merely register a planning application! A healthy dose of competition has to be the way to sort out this kind of extremely poor service.

Ian Allerston, Daniel Hurd Associates, Birmingham

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