Manchester sees 19% rise in volume of major planning applications determined, suggesting growing confidence in Northern Powerhouse

15 October 2015

The number of major planning applications* determined in Greater Manchester has increased by 19% in the last year to 351, according to the fourth Annual Planning Survey from the British Property Federation and GL Hearn, part of Capita plc.

  • Major planning application* determinations in Greater Manchester take 27 weeks – faster than London but still double the government’s target
  • Across the UK, 55% of LPAs surveyed say under-resourcing is now a significant challenge
  • 60% applicants in the North West are happy to pay more to shorten determination times

The number of major planning applications* determined in Greater Manchester has increased by 19% in the last year to 351, according to the fourth Annual Planning Survey from the British Property Federation and GL Hearn, part of Capita plc.

Overall approval rates in Greater Manchester stood at 96%, above London’s average of 84%. A hundred per cent of major developments* in Trafford, Stockport, Rochdale and Tameside over the past 12 months were approved.

The survey also found that the average submission to determination time for a major planning application* in Greater Manchester is 27 weeks – faster than London where the average submission to determination time is 34 weeks.

However this is up from 24 weeks last year, and over double the government target of 13 weeks.

When looking at reasons for the length of time it takes to approve major planning applications, both developers and local authorities identified a lack of resource within planning departments as a key barrier to developments. The majority of developers believe higher planning fees might be part of a potential solution, helping local authorities shorten waiting times and improve performance.

Both public and private sector respondents to the survey expressed concern with the lack of resources available to local planning authorities. Over half (55%) of local authorities surveyed across the UK say under-resourcing is a significant challenge and half (50%) believe the planning system is not operating as well as it was in 2010.

A significant 83% of applicants in the North West were dissatisfied with the length of time a planning application takes. The survey found that over half (60%) of applicants in the North West would be happy to pay more if it would shorten determination times.

Commenting on the findings of this year’s Annual Planning Survey, Phil Robinson Head of Residential for GL Hearn in Manchester, said: “The findings paint a mixed picture for development in Greater Manchester. It is positive to see the high approval rate across the region, with some areas in outer Manchester giving the green light to 100% of applications, suggesting there is growing confidence in the Northern Powerhouse. However, the time taken to approve major planning applications is still over double the government’s target, clearly highlighting the need for more resource.

“To boost the Northern Powerhouse, we need to ensure development activity is not impeded. This year’s Annual Planning Survey shows that the planning system needs investment.

“It’s important for planning authorities in Manchester have the right people with the right skills and powers in place to drive forward a growth agenda – and that the system is able to release the right resources when needed. For their part, developers need to speak with a single voice – and make it clear what levels of service they need and how much they are prepared to pay for it.

“'There is an urgent need to find bold new solutions to this shared challenge. Further streamlining of the system may well be part of the solution but to get Britain planning to enable growth requires investment.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation, commented: “Although determination times in Manchester are marginally shorter than in London, they are still taking much longer than they should. The fact that Manchester has seen a rise in the number of major applications is positive, but it also underlines how important it is for government to ensure that local authority planning departments are properly resourced. The more applications that are coming in, the bigger their work load, and the more resources they need. “Both public and private sectors in the North West clearly feel that there is scope for developers to help towards relieving the pressure on local authorities, and if government wants to continue to encourage investment in the Northern Powerhouse, it would be wise to consider how it might take it forward.”

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The findings paint a mixed picture for development in Greater Manchester. It is positive to see the high approval rate across the region, with some areas in outer Manchester giving the green light to 100% of applications, suggesting there is growing confidence in the Northern Powerhouse. However, the time taken to approve major planning applications is still over double the government’s target, clearly highlighting the need for more resource
Phil Robinson
Director

GL Hearn