Councils are approving major planning applications more quickly than at any point over the past 10 years, government figures have shown.
The Department for Communities and Local Government figures showed that 77% of major planning applications in England in 2014/15 were either approved in 13 weeks or to an agreed timetable. This is up on 71% in 2013/14 and just 58% in 2012/13 – it is the highest rate in the past 10 years.
However, Andrew Jackson, head of development economics at Boyer, said the improved national performance masked a fall in the rate that major applications were being approved in the capital, where London boroughs showed a 10 percentage point drop in the number of decisions made against agreed time limits.
Jackson said this was due to a decline in resources. “The fall comes against a background where the number of major applications hasn’t increased dramatically. In large part the issue is resources within planning departments – there just aren’t enough senior officers to deal with major applications, and with funding cuts putting ever greater pressures on councils to save money the prospects do not look good for speedier decision-making.
“Clearly a positive planning decision is most important to developers but the time it takes to get that decision is also very important.”
Overall the number of planning applications granted in 2014/15 rose from 349,000 the previous year to 360,000 – but this was well down on a high of 514,000 in 2004/05. The proportion of applications granted remained static at 88% – unmoved from 2013/14 and marginally up from 87% in 2012/13.
Jackson said that for residential developers the percentage of major residential applications granted in England (79%) and London (82%) demonstrated the increasing recognition that more housing is urgently needed.