Proportion of major housing applications decided on time drops amid concern over operation fo the system

The proportion of major residential planning applications decided on time fell to 81% between July and September, the lowest figure for more than five years, according to official figures.

The housing department data, published yesterday, also showed that the proportion of minor residential decisions made on time fell back to 78%, the lowest quarterly figure since the middle of 2016.

Planning approval stamp

The figures come amid growing concern in the development community that the planning system is grinding to a halt due to a combination of pressure on resources and council staff working from home.

The government sets targets for planning authorities to make decisions on major residential applications – those for 10 homes or more – within 13 weeks of them being validated, while decisions on minor residential applications must be made within eight weeks.

The latest planning performance statistics show that just 81% of major residential decisions were made on time, down from 85% in the previous quarter and 87% in the same quarter last year. The proportion is the lowest quarterly figure recorded since the April-June quarter in 2016.

The drop to 78% of minor residential applications being decided in time was from 79% in the previous quarter and 83% in the same quarter last year, with the figure the lowest since July to September in 2016.

See also>>How to build 5,000 homes and keep Middle England happy

The figures also showed that 1,355 major residential planning decisions were made in the three months to September, a drop of 8% on the previous quarter and a fall of 15% from the same quarter a year ago. This figure is the lowest absolute number of major residential applications determined since the July to September quarter in 2012, nine years ago.

The data shows that while the number of applications being submitted has risen in the last year as the pandemic shock to the economy has subsided, it is still well below recent highs seen in 2017 and 2018.

The news follows comments from a number of housebuilders in recent months about the worsening performance of the planning system, leading to delays in getting projects approved. Housebuilder Gleeson said in November that planning “congestion” had caused delays to site acquisitions and site starts.