By Kasia Banas, Consultant
The time taken to determine planning appeals could be cut by almost half, a Government-commissioned review has found.
In the report published on 12 February 2019, Bridget Rosewell CBE concluded that the average duration of the process could be “slashed” from 47 weeks to around 26 weeks. She found that “outdated administrative processes and poor IT infrastructure were unnecessarily holding up cases”, and “a lack of suitably qualified inspectors was also hampering efforts to set up inquiry hearings on time”.
The report does not advocate for an overhaul of the process but focuses on building on its existing strengths. It makes 22 recommendations and calls for improvements in areas of early engagement by all stakeholders, greater certainty about timescales, and employing technology to increase efficiency and transparency. Some of the measures include launching an online portal for the submission of inquiry appeals or preparing a strategy for hiring additional inspectors.
Response so far
The Planning Inspectorate has welcomed the report and will be working to prepare an implementation plan for delivery of its recommendations.
The formal response from MHCLG can be expected later in the year but housing secretary James Brokenshire has said that this “fantastic report” gives the government “a clear direction of travel on how we can ensure the appeals inquiry process is fit for purpose”. He expects that speeding up the decision-making process will ensure the delivery of more homes, in the right places, and will help the government reach its target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
While reactions to the report from the sector have been largely positive, Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, expressed his concerns over the effect the tighter deadlines might have on inspectors’ ability to visit local communities and assess circumstances on the ground.
The Planning Inspectorate granted planning permissions for around 30,000 new homes through the appeals process last year. Hopefully implementation of Rosewell’s proposals will result in a more efficient delivery of the much-needed homes, while weeding out the low-quality schemes.
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