Provisional data identifies councils in line for 'special measures'

More than 20 authorities are under threat of so-called special measures for taking too long to decide applications, according to official statistics published today that complete the two-year period that the government will use to assess under-performance under revised criteria.

Great Yarmouth: fewer than 65% of non-major application decisions on time over two-year period (image: John Fielding)
Great Yarmouth: fewer than 65% of non-major application decisions on time over two-year period (image: John Fielding)

Last month, in an expansion of the special measures regime, the government confirmed that councils would be designated as under-performing should they decide fewer than 65 per cent of non-major applications on time over a two-year period running from October 2014 to September 2016.

Provisional figures published today show that 14 authorities decided fewer than 65 per cent of non-major applications on time over the two-year period (see infographic, below). An analysis published last week by Planning had found that 22 authorities were beneath the threshold on the basis of their performance in the first seven of the eight quarters that form the assessment period.

According to the government’s criteria for designation, local planning authorities whose performance is below one of the performance thresholds will be given an opportunity to provide clear evidence to justify corrections to any data errors and to set out any exceptional circumstances which, in their opinion, would make a designation unreasonable.

Today’s figures also show that five authorities decided fewer than 50 per cent of major applications on time over the two-year period (see infographic, below). The threshold had been increased from 30 per cent to 40 per cent in 2014 and from 40 per cent to 50 per cent in 2015.

Six county matters authorities responsible for minerals and waste applications decided fewer than 50 per cent of major applications on time over the two-year period, the figures also show. But only one of these - Dorset - decided more than one application over the 24 months.

Under previous exceptional circumstances criteria, authorities that decided fewer than two or fewer applications over the two-year assessment period would have been exempt from special measures.

But this safeguard has been removed under the revised criteria for designation published last month. Instead, the secretary of state will consider requests that exceptional circumstances should be considered against two general tests:

(a) whether the issue affects the reasonableness of the conclusions that can be drawn from the recorded data for the authority, over the assessment period, or

(b) whether the issue had a significant impact on the authority’s performance, for reasons that were beyond its control.


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