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Latest planning data reveals councils at intervention risk in 2017

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There are 23 councils at risk of being bypassed by developers and having applications decided by the Planning Inspectorate next year, LGC analysis of new planning performance data has found.

LGC reported last month how housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell had produced revised performance criteria under which more than 31 councils would be at risk of losing planning powers next year if their performance did not improve.

The latest performance statistics covering two years between October 2014 and September 2016 were published last week. Eight authorities have improved their performance since the previous quarter, taking them above the threshold for intervention. 

Two councils – Blackpool BC and South Cambridgeshire DC – are failing to meet revised government targets for deciding enough of the major and non-major applications they receive within a specified timeframe.

Robert Turner (Con), South Cambridgeshire DC’s cabinet member for planning, said the statistics “do not reflect the planning service we currently offer” as the council had approved 91% of major applications and 79% of non-major applications within the government’s target timeframes.

The “huge leap in performance” was a result of an improvement plan being implemented, said Cllr Turner who added plans for about 6,000 new homes had been approved in the last 12 months.

“The changes we have implemented means it is not in anyone’s best interests to change the way applications are dealt with in South Cambridgeshire,” said Cllr Turner.

Blackpool had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Next year the government will only assess councils on the speed at which they make decisions on major and non-major planning applications – at least 50% of major applications need to be determined within 13 weeks, while at least 65% of non-major applications need to be determined within eight weeks.

From 2018 the performance threshold will be raised so at least 60% of major applications will need to be determined within 13 weeks, while at least 70% of non-major applications will need to be determined within eight weeks.

The quality of the decisions will also be taken into account with councils that have more than 10% of planning decisions overturned at appeal facing intervention.

Based on the current evidence, 50 councils would be at risk - a net improvement of 23 councils since the last quarter. Of those Basildon LBC, Blackpool BC, Melton BC, North Dorset DC, Oxford City Council, South Cambridgeshire DC, and South Tyneside MBC are failing to meet the extended targets in relation to speed of decision making on both major and non-major applications.


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