With local authority ‘cut-backs’, Planning Departments are reducing staff numbers across the country which has resulted in a substantial reduction of planning approvals between 2010 and 2015 according to the Freedom of Information Act.
Last year only 120,000 new homes were built across the UK, which is less than 50% of the amount needed to help solve the present housing crisis.
The local authorities are parlously under resourced and simply cannot cope with the workload.
These are not just major urban schemes, but also the minor applications for house extensions etc., where applications are waiting an interminable amount of time for adjudication.
Only one in 16 councils are processing applications, with a 50% delay on time and even when one receives a successful consent, it is ‘riddled’ with ‘mindless’ conditions which are inadequately justified by ecological and environmental rationale and is usually ‘gobbledy gook’ to most common sense people. It is a classic case of ‘jobs for the boys’ i.e. to keep the ecological and environmental consultants in work and for them to charge plenty for ‘long winded’, meaningless, reports.
The present government Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, should do a ‘root and branch’ reform of the planning process by creating a Planning Czar and expanding the Department of the Environment, which will then not only deal with planning appeals, but instead all planning applications (apart from the minor ones) and, hopefully, then they will be adjudicated exclusively on planning criteria and not, as present, preoccupied and influenced by petty local politics, localism and nimbyism.
As an illustration, try and get planning councilors to vote for a contentious scheme during the four months before a local election and you will find it easier to ‘stop the tide’. Nobody will ‘stick their neck out’ and the process is often stalled with a huge cost to the Nation’s housing requirements.
We were building 300,000 homes in Mrs. Thatcher’s era and the default thinking in those days amongst the planners was ‘how can we build more homes on any particular site?’ Today, it is just the opposite.
Please Mr. Barwell, heed this well-intentioned advice.