Online Property Finance News:– Better use of technology and appointing inspectors quicker could cut the average time for planning appeal inquiries by nearly half, according to the findings of an independent review.
Proposals included launching a new online planning appeal portal for appeal submissions and recruiting more inspectors so inquiries could be held sooner.
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At present the average time for appeal inquiry decisions is 47 weeks and the review suggests this could be reduced to 26 weeks.
Review chair, economist Bridget Rosewell praised the planning inspectorate for the quality of decisions made but said the process could be made more efficient.
“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.”
Hitting the ground running
The review wants to see earlier engagement by all parties and certainty over time scales within seven weeks after the appeal start letter. It recommends inspector case management directions about initial preparations and setting out of evidence should happen within eight weeks of the start letter.
Communities secretary, James Brokenshire welcomed the findings. “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.”
The Home Builders Federation said it would have liked the review ‘s remit to have been wider. Planning director Andrew Whitaker said: “Whilst we fully support calls for speeding up the appeals system, it is unfortunate this review only looked at public inquiries and not all appeals. Speeding up the system will be key to the industry’s ability to deliver even more homes in the future and hitting government targets.”
On average, about 315 planning appeals a year are the subject of an inquiry comprising 2 per cent of the total number of planning appeal decisions. In 2017-18 over 42,000 residential units were included in inquiry appeal schemes, of which just over 18,600 units were approved. This represents 5.4 per cent of the 347,000 total approved residential units in the year 2017-18.
Property development finance experts support the idea of faster appeal inquiry decisions and hope the current review’s proposals will make a difference.