An average of five months is set to be cut from the amount of time it takes for a planning appeal process to be completed, following an independent review which suggested that more certainty needs to be given to communities and builders.
Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire has said that the government will work in partnership with the Planning Inspectorate to reduce the time taken for appeals to be processed – a recommendation from Bridget Rosewell’s review.
The change would mean that the time taken to reach an outcome of even the most contentious planning cases could be almost halved, giving certainty to communities about future developments.
The review concluded that drawn-out nature of the current procedure is due to poor IT infrastructure and outdated administrative processes. It also pointed to a short supply of qualified inspectors, hampering efforts to set up inquiry hearings on time.
Brokenshire believes that if the process is indeed sped up, this will be a big step in the right direction for the government in their bid to reach their target of building 300,000 homes each year by the mid-2020s.
He also points out that both house builders and local communities will benefit from the quicker outcomes reached by decision makers, whilst also upholding the integrity of the appeals system which ensures that no inappropriate developments are given the go-ahead.
‘Planning appeal inquiries have held up development and kept communities waiting in limbo and 47 weeks on average is far too long to wait for a decision on something so important as a proposal for new development,’ said Brokenshire.
‘The review has produced a fantastic report and provided us with a clear direction of travel on how we can ensure the appeals inquiry process is fit for purpose. Reducing the time it takes to secure crucial decisions ensures the delivery of more homes, in the right places, and help us reach our ambition of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s,’ he added.
Rosewell said that she looks forward to seeing the proposals implemented. ‘It’s critical that all parts of the planning system contribute towards the efficient delivery of the homes we need as well as the refusal of those which don’t meet our high standards,’ she explained.
‘My review found, with commitment for all involved, that speeding up inquiries can be achieved through straightforward reforms, shaving months off the current time it takes for inspectors to make a decision,’ she added.
Overall, there were 22 recommendations in the report, including the introduction of an online portal online portal for the submission of inquiry appeals. It is argued that this would allow for the recruitment of additional inspectors so that inquiries can be scheduled sooner, reducing the length of time they take to conclude.
Following the release of the report, the Planning Inspectorate will now prepare an implementation plan which will set out how these recommendations will be delivered.