Planning system 'on the brink' says British Property Foundation


The local planning system is ‘on the brink’ as local authorities struggle to find the resources needed to process the nation’s infrastructure needs, the British Property Federation has said following the publication of its annual planning survey.

However the survey also revealed that the private sector has become more willing to reach into its own pocket to help support local planning departments in order to speed up the process.

In partnership with GL Hearn, part of Capita plc, the survey found that major new planning applications have hit a three-year high for waiting times at 32 weeks, more than double the government’s target of 13 weeks.

Things have become so bad that 65% of planning applicants would be ‘happy to pay more’ to cut down the time they spend waiting for the determination. Unsurprisingly 75% of applicants expressed dissatisfaction with the time the process takes, up from 71% last year.

A majority of 55% of local planning authorities said that a lack of resources was a ‘significant challenge’.

The news comes after repeated calls from the District Councils' Network that fees should be set at a level that ensures there is 'reasonable cost recovery'.

'At the moment fees are centrally set and it is acknowledged that they fail to ensure anything near cost recovery,' a DCN planning adviser told Transport Network.

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation, commented: ‘This report shows quite clearly that local authority planning departments are struggling to cope as a result of the efforts to find savings across the public sector, and that this is having a negative impact on local authorities’ ability to deliver a timely and efficient service.’

Ms Leech added ‘there is potentially scope for the private sector to plug this gap, and we urge the government to begin a dialogue with the property industry to see how this might be taken forward’.

The survey also revealed significant opposition to the legal and financial systems around planning, which can affect roads and transport provision and other related strategic infrastructure. See table below:


Table from British Property Foundation report

Key regional findings include:

• In London, the average submission to determination time is 34 weeks – 6 weeks longer than last year’s study (28 weeks)

• The average submission to determination time is 27 weeks in both Greater Manchester, Bristol and the surrounding area;

• The volume of major planning applications determined has fallen by 26% in London, increased by 19% in Manchester, and stayed the same in Bristol and the surrounding area;

Major new planning applications are defined as ‘10 or more dwellings, 0.5ha or more for residential development, 1,000 sqm or 1 hectare or more for commercial development’.


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