UK planning system "an absolute mess"

Number of granted planning applications drops

UK planning system "an absolute mess"

A total of 87,600 applications for planning permission were granted by district level planning authorities in England in the second quarter of this year – down 12% year-on-year, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

From April to June, 106,800 applications for planning permission were received, down 17% compared with the same period last year. DLUHC said 86% of major applications were decided within 13 weeks, or the agreed time, down one percentage point from the same quarter in 2021.

The number of granted decisions account for 88% of the total number of decided planning applications, also down one percentage point from a year ago.

Official government data also showed that in Q2 2022, a total of 8,700 residential applications were granted, down 9% from Q2 2021, while 1,800 applications for commercial developments were granted, down 5% on a year earlier.

Commenting on the latest figures, Jamie Lennox, director at Norwich-based mortgage broker Dimora Mortgages, noted that new homes are not being built quick enough and the proposed quota is never achieved.

“Many developments get stuck in planning for years,” he said. “Until there is a quicker process to get sites approved, the ambitious plans for a certain number of new homes won’t ever materialise.”

Read more: What are the solutions to solve the UK housing shortage?

Joe Garner, managing director at London-based property developer NewPlace, agreed that the number of new homes being built is not enough, adding that the planning system is “an absolute mess.”

“Political infighting and populist political games from central government down to local councils are perpetuating the housing crisis,” Garner remarked.

“The UK planning system is an omnishambles,” Dorian Payne, director of property developer Castell Group, added. “Obtaining planning permission is more of a ‘submit and cross your fingers’ approach. It’s playing a huge part in the current housing deficit, which is growing by the day.

“The statutory deadlines mean nothing, and the amount of subjectivity that is rife in planning results in applications being delayed or declined for mere difference in opinions rather than policy compliance [is high].”

Payne stressed that one of the biggest issues is that the public sector planning system is severely under-resourced.

“Any decent planning officers can make significantly more money in private practice,” he pointed out. “We need more houses, but the planning system is part of the problem not, as it should be, the solution.”

Lewis Shaw, founder of Mansfield-based Shaw Financial Services, believes developers must be prevented from land-banking and that first-time buyers must be given first dibs on developments.

“On top of that, we need to build more social homes and take some heat out of the private rented sector, to bring rents back to reality,” he said.