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Proportion of appeals meeting deadline increases

Words: Laura Edgar

The Planning Inspectorate’s 2015/16 annual report and accounts suggest the proportion of appeals meeting the planning guarantee has increased from almost 85 per cent to over 93 per cent.

However, the chief executive at the inspectorate, Sarah Richards, stated that in “several areas in the planning appeals, we fell short of meeting our targets”. This resulted in customers experiencing “significant delays”.

She added: “We did the right thing by acknowledging these failings publicly and are well advanced with the actions needed to resolve the problems. We have made progress, but there is more to do.”

According to the report, all Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project schemes met the statutory targets.

Additionally, it states that in Wales, the Planning Inspectorate exceeded “tighter targets of both planning and enforcement appeals”.

The handling of appeal casework became, according to the report, a major issue due to “inaccurate resource planning, staff not having the correct skill sets to carry out the work, managers not motivating staff to achieve results and incorrect forecasting of expected workload”.

As a result, published targets were not achieved, "undermining" the agency’s reputation and ministerial confidence in it.

There were delays in validating new appeals and starting its process, with appellants waiting longer than the target of seven days.

A series of measures were introduced to improve performance, “aligned to our tow overarching goals of providing excellent customer service and continuously improving our productivity”. Over the year, the inspectorate also recruited 79 new inspectors and used non-salaried inspectors more flexibly.

By the final quarter of the year, there was a month-on-month improvement for the majority of case, the report said.

Richards said she is keen to learn the lessons of the past year and will be taking a “robust approach to managing performance-related risks”.

“I intend to make use of the valuable experience of the non-executive members of the Planning Inspectorate Board to support our continued improvement. This will help us ensure that the work begun in 2015/16 results in the elimination of our backlog in England by the end of 2016/17."

Annual report and accounts 2015/16 can be found here (pdf).

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