Headlines: July 3rd, 2006

The Government has welcomed what it calls ‘a step-change improvement’ in performance by local planning authorities. Latest figures show seven out ten authorities met or surpassed the target of handling 60 per cent of major planning applications within 13 weeks in the last financial year – up from 55 per cent six months ago. Quarterly statistics also show that 81 per cent of all planning decisions were made within 8 weeks between January and March this year, three per cent higher than in the same period a year ago.The figures show that 127 authorities improved their performance in the six months from September last year but the Department for Communities is congratulating three in particular, Kirklees Southwark and Waveney. They were previously designated as poorly performing but the DCLG is now formally disengaging with the councils. The statistics show that the performance of 12 councils is declining.In an effort to keep up the improvement the department has published a report setting out ways in which local authorities can improve their performance and 7.5 million pounds is being made available this year for the Planning Advisory Service and the Advisory Team on Large Applications to assist local councils. The money is part of the 485 million pound Planning Delivery Grant invested since 2003 to reward authorities that meet their timeliness targets and improve the quality of plan-making and online planning services.

Planning Minister Baroness Andrews said continued improvements in performance meant the planning system was now delivering on time for homeowners and businesses across the country. But she said she wanted the improvements to go further. “We want to sustain these rates of improvement so that in a year’s time every local planning authority in England is meeting their timeliness targets,” she said.

Baroness Andrews said further improvements were anticipated following Kate Barker’s Review of Land Use Planning to ensure that the system could facilitate the right kind of development and so offer better service to businesses to meet the long term challenges of globalisation and climate chang