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18/02/2016

Consultation launched on new planning proposals

Words: Laura Edgar
Consultation / Istock

Proposals that would see councils competing to process planning applications and national planning fees increased will be considered in a consultation launched today (18 February) by the government.

Councils will be also be able to offer fast-track planning applications services, similar to those available for getting a passport, according to the government.

Ministers want to tackle the “lack of incentive” for councils to improve and speed up their planning services, which leads to “‘drawn-out applications and local frustration’ for both house builders and individual applicants”.

The government expects the proposals to boost house building and speed up the planning applications process.

Under the proposals, applicants will be able to choose whether to submit their plans to the local council, a competing council or a government-approved organisation that would process applications until the decision point of the process.

The government said the fast-track planning application service would be offered by councils through competition pilots or potentially through devolution deals.

Decision-making would, the government continued, remain with the local council to “ensure decisions are taken locally and maintain the democratic link between local people and decision-makers”.

“Developers of all sizes have consistently said that they would be willing to pay higher planning application fees" - Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB

Although councils planning departments play a “vital role” in getting local house building off the ground, “for too long they have had no incentive to get things done quickly or better, resulting in drawn-out applications and local frustration”, said communities minister Greg Clark.

“These proposals will be a boost for house builders looking to build much-needed new homes for hard-working families and first-time buyers, and for local people looking to get a planning permission for home improvements through their local council quicker.”

The proposals to offer a fast-track planning process are “urgently” required, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said that SME house builders across the country are “frustrated by a painfully slow planning process that is holding back the delivery of new homes”.

The delays and inefficiencies in the system, Berry continued, impact on house building rates and act as a deterrent to small developers who need to see speedy returns on their investments.

“Developers of all sizes have consistently said that they would be willing to pay higher planning application fees, provided the extra resources were ring-fenced to deliver a better-quality service. The proposals announced today by the government provide an avenue to house builders to access speedier planning that will allow them to get on with what they do best – building homes,” he said.

To ensure that the broader planning system is working as it should, “it’s essential that it is properly resourced,” added Berry.

The consultation will also consider proposals to make any future increases in councils’ planning application fees for processing planning applications dependent on their performance regarding the speed and quality of decisions.

Planning minister Brandon Lewis said councils are “already working hard“ to improve the services they offer, with satisfaction levels “remaining high”.

“Now we want to go further by setting out these ambitious proposals to link any future increases in application fees to councils’ performance, and testing more competition including through offering dedicated fast-track application services.”

Other measures in the consultation, which is related to the Housing and Planning Bill, include:

  • Details of how a new planning ‘permission in principle’ approach will work in practice
  • How councils will run brownfield land and small sites registers
  • Speeding up the neighbourhood planning process

The consultation document can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | iStock

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