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Developers tell planners to raise fees and get help

13 Oct 15 Bottlenecks in the planning system are holding up construction projects, a new survey appears to confirm.

Developers think the answer might be for local authorities to outsource planning services to the private sector but they are also prepared to pay more fees to fund a more efficient service.

The British Property Federation today publishes its fourth annual planning survey, produced together with GL Hearn, a subsidiary of Capita, the outsourced services specialist.

Researchers looked at major planning applications in Greater London, Greater Manchester and the Bristol area during 2014-15.

In London, the average submission to determination time is 34 weeks – six weeks longer than last year’s study (28 weeks) but an improvement from 2011/12 when it stood at 37 weeks.

The average submission to determination time is 27 weeks in both Greater Manchester and Bristol.

Both developers and local authorities identified a lack of resource within planning departments as a key barrier to development. The majority of developers believe higher planning fees might be part of a potential solution, helping local authorities shorten waiting times and improve performance.  The survey found that 65% of applicants would be happy to pay more if it would shorten determination times.

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More than half (55%) of local authorities say under-resourcing is a significant challenge and 50% believe the planning system is not operating as well as it was in 2010.

The survey also found that the London planning authorities of Hounslow, Bexley, City of London and Wandsworth all approved every single major application that came before them.

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation, said: “This report shows quite clearly that local authority planning departments are struggling to cope as a result of the efforts to find savings across the public sector, and that this is having a negative impact on local authorities’ ability to  deliver a timely and efficient service.

“The report shows that there is potentially scope for the private sector to plug this gap, and we urge the government to begin a dialogue with the property industry to see how this might be taken forward.”

Shaun Andrews, GL Hearn’s head of investor and developer planning, said: “In order to get Britain building again, we need to get Britain planning. Development activity is critical for our economy, not least in order to tackle the urgent housing crisis. This year’s Annual Planning Survey shows that the planning system needs investment – and that requires action across the board. We need to ensure that planning authorities have the right people with the right skills and powers in place to drive forward a growth agenda – and that the system is able to release the right resources when it’s needed. For their part, developers need to speak with a single voice – and make it clear what levels of service they need and how much they are prepared to pay for it.

“There is an urgent need to find bold new solutions to this shared challenge. Further streamlining of the system may well be part of the solution but to get Britain planning to enable growth requires investment. This is an industry-wide issue that needs us all to collaborate to prevent a poorly functioning planning system stifling economic growth.”

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