Planning appeals review concludes that inquiry times could be 'slashed by more than half'

A government-commissioned review into planning appeal inquiry timescales has concluded that the average duration of the process could be "slashed" by more than half from 47 weeks to around 26 weeks, it was announced today.

Appeal inquiries review chair Bridget Rosewell
Appeal inquiries review chair Bridget Rosewell

In July, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued a call for evidence for its review of planning appeal inquiries.

This followed former communities secretary Sajid Javid's announcement last March that the government would launch an "end-to-end review" of the planning inquiry process. 

The review, chaired by economist Bridget Rosewell CBE, has been published today. 

According to an MHCLG statement, the review has found that "the most contentious planning cases could be decided up to five months faster, and some in half the time, giving certainty to communities about future developments".

Rosewell said that the average time to decide a planning appeal inquiry "could be slashed from an average of 47 weeks to around 26 weeks," the statement said.

Amongst its findings, the review concluded that "outdated administrative processes and poor IT infrastructure were unnecessarily holding up cases", and "a lack of suitably qualified inspectors was also hampering efforts to set up inquiry hearings on time".

According to the statement, the report makes 22 recommendations, ranging from "committing the Planning Inspectorate to introducing a new online portal for the submission of inquiry appeals to setting out a strategy for recruiting additional inspectors so inquiries can be scheduled sooner, reducing the length of time they take to conclude".

The Planning Inspectorate will prepare an implementation plan setting out how it will deliver on the report’s recommendations, the statement added.

Rosewell said: "It’s critical that all parts of the planning system contribute towards the efficient delivery of the homes we need as well as the refusal of those which don’t meet our high standards.

"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."

Housing secretary James Brokenshire 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."

MHCLG said that it will formally respond to the review's recommendations later this year.

Rosewell will be speaking at Planning's National Planning Summit on 14 May in central London.

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