The most contentious planning cases could be decided up to five months faster, and some in half the time, the major Independent Review of Planning Appeal Inquiries has found.
Bridget Rosewell CBE, Chair of the review, said the average time to decide a planning appeal inquiry could be slashed from an average of 47 weeks to around 26 weeks.
The Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, commenting on the review, said: “Planning appeal inquiries have held up development and kept communities waiting in limbo – 47 weeks on average is far too long to wait for a decision on something so important as a proposal for new development.
“That’s why I welcome Bridget’s diligent work over the last six months, which has produced a fantastic report and provided us with a clear direction of travel on how we can ensure the appeals inquiry process is fit for purpose.”
The wide-ranging review concluded outdated administrative processes and poor IT infrastructure were unnecessarily holding up cases. It also suggested that a lack of suitably qualified inspectors was also hampering efforts to set up inquiry hearings on time.
Mrs Bridget Rosewell CBE added: “It’s critical that all parts of the planning system contribute towards the efficient delivery of the homes we need as well as the refusal of those which don’t meet our high standards.
“My review found, with commitment for all involved, that speeding up inquiries can be achieved through straightforward reforms, shaving months off the current time it takes for inspectors to make a decision.
“I’m pleased my report has been welcomed by the government and the Planning Inspectorate and look forward to seeing these changes being implemented.”
The report made 22 recommendations and range from committing the Planning Inspectorate to introducing a new online portal for the submission of inquiry appeals, to setting out a strategy for recruiting additional inspectors so inquiries can be scheduled sooner, reducing the length of time they take to conclude.
The full review is available here.