Applicants baulk at paying for a faster system, by Richard Garlick

Considering that it is operating in an era of continuing austerity, the planning system emerges reasonably well from this year's survey of applicants and planning authorities by consultants GL Hearn and industry body the British Property Federation.

The survey found that average decision-making times for major applications in the 74 planning authorities that it covered remained stable at 31 weeks compared to the previous year. 62 of the boroughs did not report a single overturn of a major application decision during 2015-16.

However, applicant dissatisfaction with the time it takes for decisions to be made on applications was higher than it had ever previously been in the survey’s five year history. Four out of five applicants said they were dissatisfied with the average submission to determination time for major applications, which the survey found to be around seven months.

There has seemed to be an emerging consensus that increases in planning fees are needed to help planning authorities improve performance.

Planning minister Gavin Barwell said recently that he was reflecting on proposals to allow authorities to charge developers "a premium fee to get a premium service".

And Department for Communities and Local Government planning director Simon Gallagher this week said that there was now "a bit more space to have a sensible conversation’ about putting more resources into the planning system, albeit that "the public finances have not changed".

But the survey shows that, although the BPF itself backs a fresh look at planning fees, surveyed applicants feel that changes in this area will help improve the speed of the system.

Applicants want a faster system, but they are not prepared to pay for it, according to the survey.

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