According to an independent review commissioned by the government, the average time to decide a planning appeal inquiry could be slashed from 47 to 26 weeks.
Back in June, Bridget Rosewell was appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to chair an independent review of planning appeal inquiries. The purpose of the report was to identify methods that could potentially reduce the time taken to conclude planning inquiries (with a focus on major housing schemes), all while maintaining the quality of decisions.
“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,” said Rosewell. “I’m pleased my report has been welcomed by the government and the Planning Inspectorate and look forward to seeing these changes being implemented.”
As well as outlining the recommended changes, Rosewell also highlighted some of the things that are currently working well within the system. Among the most commended aspects of the process was the quality of inspectors holding inquiries, including the decisions made; the length of time for issues to be considered in greater depth and the testing of evidence, including the verbal presentation of evidence; as well as public/third party involvement in the inquiry process.
However, as the report later highlights, many of these ‘things that work’ are contributing to many of the current concerns. The length of time taken to conclude decisions, for example, was revealed to be the primary issue. While this is not news to those well versed in the planning system, the report outlines some practical solutions that may finally lead to the improvements that are so desperately needed.
In the report, Rosewell outlines a total of 22 recommendations aimed at speeding up the housing planning process. Among the most promising recommendations, is the creation of a process map and timeline for the current inquiry appeal process. Another notable recommendation is the introduction of the new portal for the submission of inquiry appeals. This should take effect by December 2019, with pilot testing for inquiry cases to start in May 2019.
According to the press release, Ministers have welcomed the report and are prepared to commit to working with the Planning Inspectorate to drive down the time it takes to process appeal inquiries. It is hoped that streamlining the housing planning inquire appeals process, will help the government achieve its goal to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
“Planning appeal inquiries have held up development and kept communities waiting in limbo – 47 weeks on average is far too long to wait for a decision on something so important as a proposal for new development,” said The Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP. “Reducing the time it takes to secure crucial decisions ensures the delivery of more homes, in the right places, and will help us reach our ambition of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.”
In the coming months, the government will consider Rosewell’s report and release an official response.