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Almost 90% of Local Authorities surveyed struggling with backlog of planning enforcement cases

Planning enforcement across the country is in a resourcing, skills, and performance crisis, as revealed by a RTPI survey of 103 local planning authorities.

  • Almost 90% of Local Authorities surveyed reported a backlog of cases.
  • 70% of Local Authorities surveyed report difficulties recruiting enforcement officers in the last five years.
  • 80% of respondents reported that there weren’t enough officers to carry out the workload.
  • 96% of those surveyed said they would benefit from a central government pot that they could use to fund direct action.

A 43% fall in resources to the planning system from Local Authorities since 2009/10 has led to a tangible and damaging impact on planning enforcement, creating major delays, and negatively affecting both officers and the public.

MPs debating the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will discuss new enforcement powers like time limits, temporary stop notices, and development progress reports to help councils deal with breaches. But RTPI findings suggest their impact will be limited without sufficient capacity to hold people who commit breaches of planning control to account.

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI said, “Enforcement officers are the custodians of the planning system, they are the un-sung heroes of the planning world, protecting the public and the environment from people who commit breaches of planning control, flout planning laws, and deliver ill-planned and ill-designed developments.

“But enforcement officers that we’ve spoken to describe a system falling apart, where unmanageable workloads and insufficient staff has left most councils unable to meet public demand. Struggling to meet even a proportion of the complaints generated by the public, councils are having to put proactive action on the back burner.”

Izindi Visagie, National Association of Planning Enforcement (NAPE) committee member and partner at Ivy Legal said, “The job of a planning enforcement officer is tougher than ever before. You upset either a planning offender or a complainant, and often both. Throw in a shortage of resources, training and talent pool and add in court delays and appeal delays, and it’s no surprise planning enforcement officers are low in supply and morale.

“When the failure of planning enforcement means failure of the planning system as a whole, people need to sit up and take notice of this report.”


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