Local authorities pressed to speed up planning decisions

New statistics that track the number of weeks it takes local authorities across England to process planning applications have sparked a call for improvements. A total of 46 planning authorities have been termed "improvers", but only 63% of planning decisions are taken within eight weeks.

Planning Minister Nick Raynsford announced the publication of planning decision statistics for the year ending 30 September 1999 and used the data to reiterate the Government’s wish to see considerable improvement: “I am disappointed that the percentage of decisions made within eight weeks shows very little improvement in authorities’ overall performance during the past year,” Raynsford said. “People need to know that once they have made a planning application it will be dealt with efficiently and effectively, without unnecessary delays.”

Although the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) acknowledges that some local authorities fear speedy decisions could lead to a loss of quality, the TCPA believes that improved efficiency in planning is urgently required. “Generally you don’t need huge sums to make an impact in planning services,” Graeme Bell, director of TCPA told edie. “Usually small investments in people and technology are all that is necessary to make improvements.”

From April 2000 local authorities will have to publish their own statistics on a range of ‘Best Value’ targets. Bell hopes that being judged on such things as speed of planning decisions will provide authorities will the incentive to treat planning seriously. “If some local authorities can speed things up, why can’t others?” asks Bell. “It’s often about the amount of resource they put into planning as opposed to other resources.”

In the year ending 30 September 1999:

  • 63% of planning decisions were made within 8 weeks, compared with 62% for the year ending March 1999
  • 27 planning authorities met or surpassed the Government’s target of deciding 80% of planning applications within 8 weeks
  • 97 planning authorities decided 70% or more of applications within 8 weeks
  • 36 planning authorities decided fewer than 50% of applications within 8 weeks
  • 10 planning authorities decided fewer than 40% of applications within 8 weeks
  • 46 planning authorities are classified as improvers

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