More delays for your West London Project.
During the last year, developers and planners are increasingly frustrated by the delays at the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). WEA Planning and clients can testify to this experience.
The scale of delays for planning appeals was announced on twitter. Householders have to wait 15 weeks – more than double the average duration in 2013/2014. Hearings on average take 36 weeks while inquiries will take 49 weeks for a decision. While appellants for normal written representations have to wait 24 weeks - a 25% increase in less than one year.
Appeal procedures for enforcement cases will also face delays as an appeal will take up to three months to be validated and, in cases where a public inquiry is necessary, decisions take up to 16 months after the appeal is made.
While local authorities such as the West London Boroughs - Brent, Barnet, Ealing, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, Islington, Camden (longer), Brent, Wandsworth, Merton, Hillngdon, Harrow, Hounslow - typically take two weeks to validate applications, PINS has a different system which allows an appeal to start when they get around it or when they have suitable resources. This is in sharp contrast with 2012 when the government announced that ‘planning applications should be decided in no more than 26 weeks, allowing a similar period for any appeal.’
According to a PINS senior officer, 25% of appeals are incomplete or invalid which raises questions as the online form does not allow submission until all mandatory documents are uploaded. Excuses for to this situation include the understandable consequences of the planned £6m of cuts that PINS has to make within the next four years.
Andrew Whitaker, planning director of Home Builders Federation (HBF) added the retirement of senior officers and the steep increase in local plan examinations as another reasons for delay. Whitaker argued that the problem started 6 years ago when the NPPF was introduced and the planning authorities had to maintain a 5 year supply of land for housing resulting to an increased number of appeals.
Delays before the start of an appeal could lead to more than three months delay in the whole process Deidre Wells, chair of the RTPI’s independent consultants network, stated it ‘is extremely difficult to explain to clients’.
Wells referred to the economic impact of such delays. Clients frequently have to pay additional costs and consultants for second rounds of submissions as circumstances change during the long appeal process. The contracts with the landowners may also be affected as they may have to be renegotiated after they expire while, for planning authorities, it is also frustrating as they clearly want an early resolution.
Andrew Burgess, group land and planning director at Churchill Retirement Living, as another dissatisfied customer, suggested that one option would be to address the PINS workload crisis by reducing the number of appeals received by PINS with the introduction of penalties for planning authorities that have refusals that they have issued against officers’ advice overturned.
PINS has 250 inspectors and is planning to employ another 30 for which it has received 180 applications. However, it should be taken into account that three to five years are needed for an inspector to gain the required skills and experience to become able to examine more complex cases according to PINS.