Economist Kate Barker has warned the Treasury that the planning system will come under increasing strain over the next 20 years and has called for further reform.

Barker today published her interim report on the land use planning system in England. She highlighted three particular challenges:

  • Costs of delays. In 2005/06, more than a third of appeals dealt with by public inquiry took longer than a year to be decided, while around a third of local authorities are still not meeting government targets for the proportion of large applications to be determined within 13 weeks.
  • Need for greater responsiveness to economic and social change. The review found that significant investments into the UK, as well as the development of high-tech clusters, have been prevented as a result of planning issues.
  • Lack of responsiveness to price signals.
However, Barker said that planning reforms in recent years have already made significant improvements. She said: ‘I believe we can still do more to reach these goals.’

She said the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 succeeded in simplifying plan-making, and pointed to more than £600m of additional funding that has helped local planning authorities speed up their processes.

The report references a survey by the Confederation of British Industry in which 69% of firms said they were dissatisfied with the record of local authorities in improving the planning service.

The review will continue to look at how the planning system can be made more efficient, and more responsive to price and changing economic circumstances at a local and regional level. Barker’s final report is due to be published in late 2006.

The Department for Communities and Local Government also published proposals today to streamline the planning system for minor applications.