Exclusive - Survey: reforms mean hike in appeals

Applicants and decision-makers believe that the government's proposed planning reforms will lead to "substantially" more appeals in the next two years, according to a major survey of planning professionals.

Planners think coalition reforms will mean an increase in planning appeals
Planners think coalition reforms will mean an increase in planning appeals

An exclusive survey carried out by Planning reveals that the majority of respondents - 90 per cent of council-employed chartered town planners and 72 per cent of private consultants - agree or strongly agree that the coalition's planning reforms as set out in the Localism Bill and the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will lead to "substantially" more appeals in the short term.

The online survey, which was responded to by 116 private consultants and 354 council planners, found the statement to be one of the main areas of consensus between private and public sector planning professionals.

Planning Officers Society president Mike Holmes said: "It is a self-evident truth that inherent conflict between the localism agenda, with its focus on giving communities a greater say in what is built in their area, and the draft NPPF, with its emphasis on approving new development, will lead to more appeals."

Another point on which both sectors agreed is that "a shortage of staff at local planning authorities (LPAs) is a major constraint on timely decision-making", with 86 per cent of council planning officers and 81 per cent of consultants agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement.

The majority of respondents - 80 per cent of council planners and 62 per cent of consultants - said the government should give a legal definition of sustainable development, while 67 per cent of council planners and 73 per cent of consultants agreed that the abolition of regional strategies "is delaying progress on major projects".

But consultants and council planners disagreed on other issues. For example, 83 per cent of council planners agreed or strongly agreed that the draft NPPF puts too much emphasis on economic growth, compared with just 19 per cent of consultants. 14 per cent of council planners agreed or strongly agreed that allowing LPAs to set their own fees will hamper development, versus 59 per cent of consultants.

Meanwhile, 37 per cent of consultants said that neighbourhood planning will give residents more control over development in their area compared with 17 per cent of council planners, the survey found.

Opinion was more equally divided over financial incentives for development. Twenty-one per cent of council planners and 33 per cent of consultants agreed that financial incentives to councils would speed up the delivery of development, according to the survey.

Kim Morris, planning director at consultancy Barton Willmore, expressed surprise that so many local authority planners felt the draft NPPF places too much emphasis on economic growth. She said: "At a time when there is not enough movement in terms of economic growth, there should be a consensus that the draft NPPF is potentially a crucial tool for moving forward much-needed development."

Further findings will be published along with Planning's Consultancy Survey in our 18 November issue.


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