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Lack of resources hits planning system

Words: Huw Morris

More than half of local planning authorities are suffering from a lack of resources that is severely hindering development, according to a new survey.

The fourth annual planning survey by the British Property Federation (BPF) and GL Hearn found that 55 per cent of local authorities see under-resourcing as a significant challenge, with half arguing that the planning system is not operating as well as it was in 2010.

Most developers responding to the survey see higher planning fees as part of a potential solution to help authorities to shorten waiting times and raise performance.

The average submission-to-determination time for a major application is 32 weeks across London, Greater Manchester and Bristol, more than double the government target of 13 weeks. The overall volume of major applications determined in the capital fell by 26 per cent compared with 2013-14.

Three-quarters of applicants are unhappy with the length of time an application takes, up from 71 per cent last year, the survey revealed.

Shaun Andrews, GL Hearn’s head of investor and developer planning, said the planning system needs urgent investment, particularly to tackle the country's housing crisis.

"We need to ensure that planning authorities have the right people with the right skills and powers in place to drive forward a growth agenda and that the system is able to release the right resources when it's needed," he added. "For their part, developers need to speak with a single voice – and make it clear what levels of service they need and how much they are prepared to pay for it.

“There is an urgent need to find bold new solutions to this shared challenge. Further streamlining of the system may well be part of the solution, but to get Britain planning to enable growth requires investment."

BPF chief executive Melanie Leach said local authority planning departments are struggling to cope as a result of the drive to find savings across the public sector, and that this is hindering local authorities’ ability to deliver a timely and efficient service.

“The fact of the matter is that an effective planning system is crucial to enabling regeneration and development, and if the government wants to meet the housing challenge and develop the commercial buildings that support our economy, it is going to need to take action," she added.