• Planning reforms have actually slowed developments

    24th April 2013 | News | Claire
  • Planning reforms aimed at getting more new homes built have actually slowed down the process, new figures show.

    Ministers have consistently said that the Coalition’s planning reforms are intended to speed up development to boost the economy.

    Government statistics show that fewer applications are now being approved after introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework.

    The figures show that the proportion of new small scale developments with fewer than 10 homes being approved within a Government target of eight weeks has fallen from 71 per cent to 68 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

    Similarly the proportion of larger developments approved by the slightly longer target of 13 weeks fell from 60 per cent in the 12 months to December 2011 to 57 per cent in the year to December 2012.

    The statistics suggest that rather than spending up the planning process, the changes have made them more complex. The NPPF distilled 1,400 pages of planning guidance into 52 and is biased in favour of “sustainable development”, was unveiled last year.

    The changes were bitterly fought by campaigners and readers of the Telegraph through its ‘Hands Off Our Land’ campaign.

    Labour’s shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “In reality planning applications are now taking longer to decide and, unsurprisingly given planning was never the brake on growth the Government claimed it was, the economy is still flatlining.

    “Following the Government’s botched planning reforms we have a situation in which many areas are unprotected by local plans, Labour’s brown field first policy has been fundamentally weakened and key environmental protections are being ripped up.

    “We were sold all of this on the basis that it would speed up planning and boost the economy.”

    Neil Sinden, campaigns director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “These figures show that even in their own terms the Government’s planning reforms are not delivering.

    “They suggest that financial pressures on local authorities combined with confusion over policy direction and community resistance to poorly planned development mean that it is taking longer to make planning decisions.

    “More importantly, CPRE fears the quality of planning decisions will suffer as well with damaging consequences for the countryside and rural communities. The time has come for a rethink.”

    The Department for Communities and Local Government said that more than 2,300 major residential decisions have already been taken

    Home Builders Federation research found 45,041 new homes were granted approval by local authorities in the final quarter of last year, up 62 per cent year on year.

    A department spokesman said: “The Framework condensed 1,000 pages of confusing and obscure Whitehall guidance into 50 pages that makes the planning system more accessible, puts local decisions centre stage, protects our glorious countryside, and encourages responsible building.

    “The Framework has been quietly working and getting on with the job. Nearly nine in ten planning applications are now approved – a ten year high.

    “The Government agrees some councils are failing to meet their statutory duties on major applications, which is why it is introducing measures through the Growth and Infrastructure Bill to encourage councils to speed up the system.”