Justified complaints and successful challenges to its decisions were reduced and dramatic improvements were made in handling times for appeals for written representations, hearings and inquiries.
In answer to a parliamentary question, planning minister Richard Caborn said: 'The planning inspectorate's annual report and accounts for 1998/99 was published yesterday.
'Overall, the inspectorate met 7 out of 10 targets set for its work in England. Handling times for hearing and inquiry cases, although much improved, missed the target. For inquiries, this is partly due to an increase in refusals by parties of dates offered by the inspectorate. It is important that all parties cooperate and observe the deadlines set to enable the inspectorate to deliver further improvements in performance.
'The inspectorate has also maintained the programme of development plan inquiries to a high standard, helping to create greater certainty for all involved in the planning process as more areas are covered by up to date development plans.
'The inspectorate's quality target was met and exceeded, with reduced numbers of justified complaints against decisions issued. Surveys continued to show that its decisions are widely respected. It has also produced an outstanding financial performance during the last year. The inspectorate is very much involved in initiatives to develop the government's proposals for the modernisation of the
planning system. In the climate of a rapidly changing environment it is always ready to take on new areas of work in dispute resolution'.
1) The planning inspectorate serves the secretaries of state for the environment, transport and the regions and for Wales on appeals and other casework involving planning, housing, environmental, and other allied legislation. It has offices in Bristol and Cardiff.
2) The annual report of the planning inspectorate executive agency can be obtained from the inspectorate's offices in Bristol (Tollgate House, Houlton Street, Bristol, BS2 9DJ - telephone 0117 987 8743) and Cardiff (Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF1 3NQ - telephone 0122 282 3892) and from TSO bookshops.
3) The inspectorate also produces an annual business and corporate plan and statistical report which can also be obtained from its offices in Bristol and Cardiff.