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Councils praised for planning performance

Nearly 60 English local planning authorities (LPAs) are no longer classified as poor performers by the government after meeting development control targets.

Latest planning statistics show that applications continue to fall, while overall planning authority performance is on the increase.

Some 59 LPAs have now been taken off the list of so-called Planning Standards Authorities (PSA), the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed.

The ODPM has praised what it called the hard work of members and officials on improving planning services and highlighted seven authorities which are now demonstrating high levels of performance.

This group of authorities includes councils which had been ranked as PSAs for four – and in one case – five years.

The seven were named as the London Boroughs of Harrow and Hillingdon, Mid Devon District Council, Oxford City Council, Southampton City Council, West Berkshire Council and the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.

ODOM minister Baroness Andrews said: “Our aim is for all authorities to meet these high standards by this time next year which is why we will continue to engage with those that need to improve further and will set out further measures to sustain this improved performance over the long term.”

The latest planning statistics show that LPAs in England received 147,000 applications for planning and other related consents during the fourth quarter of 2005.

This is seven per cent lower than in the corresponding period last year and gives added weight to the belief that the application surge of the last few years has peaked.

The statistics show that the number of applications decreased in all regions compared with the same quarter a year ago.

The figures also show that the number of decisions made by planning authorities has fallen, down eight per cent. Household decisions remain the biggest single category, at just under 50 per cent.

In addition, the statistics show that planning authority performances were 10 per cent faster at dealing with major applications and also with minor and other proposals.

Meanwhile, speaking to planning inspectors recently, Baroness Andrews claimed that developers have started praising the Inspectorate for the turnaround in performance in dealing with housing appeals for 10 or more dwellings.

She said this was having “a major impact on LPA behaviour”.

“They are now more willing to negotiate early with the developers than previously,” she added.

In a related development, the government has announced some £4m of extra funding for the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) and the Advisory Team on Large Applications (ATLAS) to expand support for planning authorities.



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