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Planning and Design

The whittling away of wonderful ideas: post-consent and the diminution of design quality

‘The whittling away of wonderful ideas: post-consent and the diminution of design quality'

University of the West of England


This project, commissioned by the West of England Combined Authority, explored the under-researched and poorly-understood area of post-consent and focussed specifically on the impact of post-consent planning processes on delivered outcomes. This is the first published research that looks comprehensively at the journey of development from the point of permission through to delivery and ongoing management.

Overall, the research evidenced a worrying decline in design quality post-consent, with developers routinely altering designs post-consent or leaving key elements out at delivery; it identified some of the causes (outline planning consent being highlighted as particularly problematic); and provided a series of recommendations for improving post-consent practice. In this latter regard, the research encourages post-consent planning to be viewed as an integral part of the development process, and re-positions planning as having a more enduring influence, rather than ending at the point of permission as is often characterised.

The findings are of importance to both policy and practice. In particular, they illustrate that even where all parties are working to the same policy framework, this does not prevent the emergence of different aspirations in terms of the ‘finished’ product. Although outcomes are very context and developer specific, the way that post-consent processes are managed and mediated, seems to allow for considerable negotiation in which the logic of value-engineering and viability, is pitted against broader ideas of development quality.