Major planning application approvals in Bristol region take 29 weeks, over double government target

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12 December 2014

Average approval time slower than both London and Manchester, according to GL Hearn and British Property Federation’s Annual Planning Survey

Major developments* take an average of roughly seven months (29 weeks) to receive planning approval in the Greater Bristol region, according to GL Hearn and the British Property Federation’s Annual Planning Survey.

This average validation to determination time is over double the government target of 13 weeks and is slower than both London (26 weeks) and Manchester (22 weeks).

Bath was a commendable local authority in the region, with major developments in the borough being approved within 20 weeks on average. Overall approval rates in Bristol and the surrounding local authorities stood at 83.9%, also below Manchester (93%) and London (85%). 94% of major developments in North Somerset over the past 12 months were approved.

These setbacks for development in the Bristol region were echoed across the UK, with 62% of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) across the country calling for an overhaul of the planning system and 52% of developers stating that planning is a major barrier to house building. The survey also revealed that there was a discrepancy between where LPAs and developers perceived the problems to be:

  • Developers listed planning (52%) and a shortage of land (43%) as the greatest obstacles to more building
  • Councils tend to name funding (43%) and demand (41%) as the principal barriers to more house-building

Commenting on the findings of the Annual Planning Survey, Tony Clements, GL Hearn Bristol’s Planning Director, said:

“Many Local Planning Authorities in the Greater Bristol region must be commended for their efforts to keep the planning process moving forward, with some giving the green light to over 90% of applications. However, it is worrying to see that the average application time is stubbornly high, especially given the cost implications that this will have.

The current system must be made shorter, clearer and more consistent in order to capitalise on the investment being made available for new homes. There has arguably been too much focus on the planning system itself and not enough in the people and resources needed to run it. To achieve the step change required, significant investment is needed and the government needs to look at further ways private sector resources can be leveraged to better equip local authorities. This will hopefully translate into a swifter, more manageable process for all parties involved.”

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, commented:

“The fact that Bristol’s average approval time is over double the government target shows that the planning system puts a lot of pressure on both LPAs and developers. Further reform of the system is clearly needed.

“The BPF would like to see the pre-application stage of the planning process is examined in more detail as developments often get stuck in this stage, causing delay. CIL also needs further consideration, as it is viewed negatively by both LPAs and developers.” More detail on the survey findings can be found in the Annual Planning Survey 2014: Where next for the UK’s planning system? report

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Many Local Planning Authorities in the Greater Bristol region must be commended for their efforts to keep the planning process moving forward, with some giving the green light to over 90% of applications. However, it is worrying to see that the average application time is stubbornly high, especially given the cost implications that this will have
Tony Clements
Head of Bristol Office

GL Hearn

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