Planning system on the brink as local authorities suffer from lack of resource

  • 55% of LPAs surveyed say under-resourcing is now a significant challenge
  • Approximately two thirds (65%) of applicants happy to pay more to shorten waiting times
  • Major new planning application* determination times hit a three year high of 32 weeks, over double the government target
  • Overall volume of major planning applications determined in London down 26% when compared to 2013-14

Some of England’s major cities are taking well over six months to determine major new planning applications with both developers and local authorities identifying a lack of resource within planning departments as a key barrier to development. The majority of developers believe higher planning fees might be part of a potential solution, helping local authorities shorten waiting times and improve performance. 

The average submission to determination time for a major planning application is 32 weeks across London, Greater Manchester and Bristol and the surrounding area, over double the government target of 13 weeks. In addition to this, and despite a worsening housing crisis, the overall volume of major applications determined in London fell by 26%, according to the fourth Annual Planning Survey from the British Property Federation and GL Hearn, part of Capita plc.

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 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 75% of applicants are dissatisfied with the length of time a planning application takes – up from 71% last year. The survey found that nearly two thirds (65%) of applicants would be happy to pay more if it would shorten determination times.

Key regional findings include:


  • In London, the average submission to determination time is 34 weeks – 6 weeks longer than last year’s study (28 weeks) but a modest improvement from 2011/12 when it stood at 37 weeks;
  • The average submission to determination time is 27 weeks in both Greater Manchester, Bristol and the surrounding area;
  • The volume of major planning applications determined has fallen by 26% in London, increased by 19% in Manchester, and stayed the same in Bristol and the surrounding area;
  • In line with diminishing land opportunities in the capital, densification is a more prevalent priority for applicants in London (47%) compared to applicants in the North West (14%).

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