A consultation published last month has highlighted proposals that are set to shake up the planning process by allowing councils to offer a fast track service – similar to that available for passport applications.
The plans are set to tackle the lack of incentive for councils to improve and speed up their planning service, that in its current drawn out state leads to frustration for both individual applicants and housebuilders.
It is intended that the proposals will increase the amount of choice that individual applicants get in deciding where to submit their plans. They will have the option to submit to the local council, a competing council or a government approved organisation.
However, the decision making on planning applications will remain with the local council regardless of to which body the application is made. This is to ensure that decisions are taken locally and maintain the democratic link between local people and the decision makers.
Communities Secretary, Greg Clark explains:
“Council planning departments play a vital role in getting local housebuilding off the ground, but for too long they have had no incentive to get things done quickly or better, resulting in drawn out applications and local frustration.
“These proposals will be a boost for housebuilders looking to build much needed new homes for hard working families and first time buyers, and for local people looking to get a planning permission for home improvements through their local council quicker”
Historically councils have had a ‘closed market’ in handling planning applications, with limited incentive for innovation and efficiency.
However research studies over the last 3 decades in the UK and abroad suggest there are cost savings of up to a fifth for competitively tendered or shared services.
The consultation document can be read in full here and closes on the 15th April.
In response to the ‘fast track’ planning system Adrian Swan, Managing Director, Swan Homes East Midlands Ltd, said:
“A fast track planning system would change the dynamics of our business, allowing SMEs like ourselves to upscale housing supply in support of the government’s projected national targets, and assist in greater delivery, while having the ability to gain improved and quicker access to main stream bank finance.”
The plans are obviously a step in the right direction and it will be interesting to see the results of the pilots, to see whether in fact the changes will speed up the ever frustrating planning process.
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