Twelve-week deadlines for processing major planning applications should be scrapped in favour of customer satisfaction ratings, according to a review of the planning system published today.
The Killian Pretty review, launched by housing and planning minister Margaret Beckett and communities secretary Hazel Blears this afternoon, also recommends that Section 106 negotiations should be speeded up by agreeing key points before an application is submitted. It also proposes that councillors should be encouraged to take part in pre-application discussions.
In addition, the review recommends that up to 40% of applications be taken out of the system by extending permitted development rights to cover minor alterations and development by small businesses, schools and hospitals. There are 17 recommendations in total.
Blears described the planning system as ‘slow, unpredictable and costly’ and said the recommendations could save applicants and planning authorities £300m a year.
‘Getting rid of bureaucracy wherever we can is more important than ever,’ she added, referring to the recession. Beckett promised that the government would respond to the report in the new year: ‘In some cases we are talking about very far-reaching change. We need time to consider and consult,’ she said.
Stuart Robinson, head of planning at CB Richard Ellis, welcomed moves to make councillors take part in pre-application discussions. ‘On too many important applications, you never know which way the council is going to go until the last minute,’ he said.
But he believes customer satisfaction ratings are impractical: ‘Whether the applicant is satisfied will depend on whether they get the decision they wanted,’ he said.
Robinson also doubted whether councils will be willing to agree Section 106 agreements early on in the planning process: ‘They like to keep their powder dry.’