The councils that have determined the fewest applications within government time limits

Ten local authorities have fallen below the government's 'special measures' threshold for the proportion of application decisions made within the statutory timescales, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Craven: fallen under the 'special measures' threshold for speed of both major and non-major planning decisions. Image: Flickr / Tim Green
Craven: fallen under the 'special measures' threshold for speed of both major and non-major planning decisions. Image: Flickr / Tim Green

Under the special measures programme, councils can have planning decisions taken out of their hands and dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate if they fall below specified thresholds for the speed and quality of their decision making.

Authorities that decide fewer than 60 per cent of major applications within the statutory deadline of 13 weeks or 70 per cent of non-major applications within the eight-week deadline face the sanction.

In December last year, the government announced the programme would continue until 2020. However, no council has been penalised under the initiative since January 2015, despite many falling under the sanction thresholds.

Last month, the government updated its figures showing how many major and non-major decisions that each English local planning authority determined within the prescribed timescales in the two years up to December 2018.

The data shows that Southampton, Craven, Worcestershire and Herefordshire Councils have all fallen below the 70 per cent threshold for non-major decisions. Of a total of 1,840 decisions, Southampton Council made 59 per cent of them within the eight week deadline.

Craven Council was also among four authorities to fall below the 70 per cent threshold for deciding 'district matters' major applications within 13 weeks. Wirral Council emerged as the worst-performing authority in this category, deciding less than half of applications within the deadline.

For 'county matters' major application decisions, which covers mineral and waste development, Ealing and Wakefield Councils both fell below the threshold. However, both authorities only dealt with just one ‘county matters’ major application each over the two-year period but failed to do so within the 13-week timeframe. Telford and Wrekin Council received four such applications but only determined two on time.

Wirral Council narrowly avoided falling below the threshold for non-major planning decisions, determining 70.7 per cent of 2,242 applications on time. Barrow-in-Furness, Exeter, Brighton & Hove and the Peak District National Park all decided fewer than 75 per cent of non-major applications within the eight week timeframe.

Lewes Council scraped above the special measures threshold for district-level major planning decisions, determining 60.6 per cent within the 13-week deadline. Corby Council and the Peak District National Park both decided 63.6 per cent of major applications on time.

Gateshead, Stockport, Somerset and Stoke-on-Trent Councils all decided two-thirds of ‘county matters’ planning applications within the 13-week deadline.

Last month, the MHCLG published its latest data on local authority planning decisions that are overturned at appeal, which showed that six authorities were over the 'special measures' threshold for quality of decision-making.

Last December, the MHCLG announced that designation decisions in the first quarter of 2019 for speed of decision-making would consider the two-year timeframe between October 2016 and September 2018. For quality of decision-making, the assessment period would be between April 2016 and March 2018. 

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