News | Published February 12 2019

Hiltongrove welcome government review stating time taken for planning appeals could be cut by half

The government have today published an independent review which states that the most contentious planning cases could be decided up to five months faster, with some having the potential to be decided in half the time they currently take. Hiltongrove welcome these findings, having highlighted the need for planning reform in their article for The Parliamentary Review

The review, conducted by Bridget Rosewell CBE, said that the average time it takes to reach a decision could be reduced from 47 weeks to 26 weeks. 

According to the report, which can be read here, the average number of planning appeals which are annually referred to an inquiry is 315. This constitutes two per cent of all planning appeals.

The report found that the primary reasons for these delays were: “outdated administrative processes and poor information technology,” “a back-loaded process, which has been further reinforced by the delays in setting up inquiries” and “the restricted availability of suitable inspectors to conduct the inquiry.”

In order to improve the system, the report made a number of recommendations. Foremost among these was the need to promote “earlier engagement by all parties”.

Beyond this, the review also called for greater certainty about timescales and “harnessing technology to improve efficiency and transparency.”

Responding to the publication of this report, James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, said: “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.

“That’s why I welcome Bridget’s diligent work over the last six months, which has produced a fantastic report and provided us with a clear direction of travel on how we can ensure the appeals inquiry process is fit for purpose.

“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.”

Bridget Rosewell commented that: “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.

“I’m pleased my report has been welcomed by the government and the Planning Inspectorate and look forward to seeing these changes being implemented.”

In order to adapt the current system to these new recommendations, the Planning Inspectorate are now preparing an implementation plan which will set out how they will go about delivering these improvements.

Reactions to these findings have been fixed.

According to the official governmental press release, faster inquiries into contested developments “will give house builders and local communities more certainty on when decisions will be made, while also maintaining the ability of the appeals system to prevent inappropriate development.”

As reported in The Telegraph however, some have concerns over the impact on community involvement and power over developments. Clive Betts MP, the chair of the Housing, Communities Local Government select committee argued that: “I think appeals could be done more quickly but you still have to make sure that the inspector gets a proper grasp of the local issues.

“The good inspectors go and have a look on the ground. The government has got to be absolutely clear that they should not time by taking away from the inspectors the ability to go and assess local circumstances.”

In order to ascertain the reaction of industry leaders, the Review spoke to Hiltongrove, a residential development company based in Walthamstow.

Hiltongrove own and manage over 200 apartments, offices and shops around the country. In their contribution to The Parliamentary Review in 2018, CEO Guy Davis highlighted the beneficial impact of the permitted development rights legislation, first introduced by Lord Eric Pickles in 2013, as a productive way to help ease the housing crisis. 

Guy responded similarly to the findings of this new report, stating that: "This is well overdue and we welcome the recommendation to significantly reduce the appeal process."

Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
February 12 2019

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