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Government details further proposed planning reform

06 September 2012

The Government today announced further proposed reforms to the planning system. The reforms include:

  • Removing restrictions on house builders to help unlock 75 000 homes currently stalled due to sites being commercially unviable. Developers who can prove that Local Authority affordable housing requirements make the project unviable will see them removed.
  • Thousands of big commercial and residential applications would be directed to a major infrastructure fast track and where councils are poorly performing, developers can opt to have decisions taken by the Planning Inspectorate.
  • Putting some planning departments into 'special measures' if they do not increase the speed and quality of development management.
  • For a limited period, 'slashing planning red tape', by relaxing permitted development rights.
  • A number of other announcements have been made relating to the delivery of housing and infrastructure.

The written ministerial statement is here. (pdf)

RTPI statement

An RTPI spokesman said: "The RTPI has long argued for measures that help the planning system to deliver growth and sustainable development. Today's Government announcements contain a number of proposals that aim to 'create the conditions that support local economic growth and remove barriers that stop local businesses creating jobs and getting Britain building again'. Any new investment that helps with this is to be welcomed.

We agree that timely and appropriate planning decisions are important.  However, claims that planners are a barrier to growth are misplaced. DCLG statistics show that for at least a decade, over 80% of planning applications have been granted and around 90% of major commercial applications (which are critical for economic growth) are successful.

Emerging evidence suggests that speed and quality of decision-making is improving in local authorities. Many small scale developments are already exempt from requiring planning permission. For those small scale developments that need permission, evidence shows that permission is granted in the vast majority of cases.

Such evidence further supports our Planning Myths campaign and recent research by the LGA demonstrates that planners in both the public and private sector are facilitating rather than holding up growth."

The Institute is considering its response to the details of the announcements.


Government statistics show that for at least a decade over 80% of planning applications have been granted (DCLG, Dec 2010: Table P120)  – and around 90% for major commercial applications which are critical for economic growth. The RTPI's Planning Myths campaign provides evidence to show that the planning system is not a barrier to growth. Yet there are other factors which hinder the completion of development.

The Local Government Association today released research and statistics which highlight this:

  • There were 399,816 unbuilt homes with planning permission on 31 December 2011. Building work had yet to start on 52 per cent of the uncompleted developments. 
  • The average time taken for a development to progress to completion having obtaining planning permission has lengthened from 20 months in 2007/08 to 25 months in 2011/12. One development completed last year came 8.75 years after planning permission was granted.

Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said: "These figures conclusively prove that local authorities are overwhelmingly saying 'yes' to new development and should finally lay to rest the myth that the lack of new homes being built is the fault of the planning system."