Inside the council planning department resource crisis


Hold ups in the planning system are increasingly cited by housebuilders as a major barrier to development. Emily Twinch talks to planners about what is really happening on the ground

Demoralising’, ‘miserable’, ‘depressing’. This is how officers anonymously described working in planning departments to a podcast called 50 Shades of Planning recently. There has been a resources issue in local authority planning departments for some time, but the problem now appears worse than ever.

Stretched funds and low numbers of staff are the major contributing factor to delays in the system. Last year a RIBA Future Trends survey showed nearly eight in 10 architecture practices reported projects being put back because they were getting stuck in the planning system. Savills has a non-exhaustive list of 14 authorities that have delayed or halted their local plans. This is because of policy uncertainty with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill on the horizon, but is also in many cases also due to a lack of resources. 

The people doing the work are feeling the strain. “It’s really demoralising and morale is at an all-time low,” says one officer to the podcast. Another officer explains: “The last 24 months have been miserable.” A third adds: “The lack of leadership and competent management is a real issue, and it makes the rest of the team underneath feel depressed.”

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