DPP is calling for local planning authorities (LPA’s) to have more awareness of the need to meet the government’s ‘Project Speed’ planning targets for public service infrastructure.
Project Speed, a national strategy to bolster and speed-up the delivery of public service infrastructure in England in the wake of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, was introduced in September 2021.
However, none of the eight qualifying applications handled by DPP since the introduction of the target have been determined within the new timescales.
For minor and major public service infrastructure planning applications – projects such as schools, universities and hospitals – the consultation deadline has been reduced from 21 to 18 days.
For major applications, the statutory determination date has been cut from 13 to 10 weeks. There also is a requirement for LPAs to notify the secretary of state when they anticipate making a decision.
DPP also points out there is a lack of information about what action or sanctions will be taken when LPAs fail to hit the new target dates.
Oliver Corbett, Principal Planner at DPP, said:
LPAs need to act quicker on applications for public service infrastructure if England’s regeneration and infrastructure improvements are to come to fruition at the faster pace that the government intended.
These are delaying desperately-needed school places for children across the country, preventing the delivery of new hospitals and medical facilities and risking the economic growth and recovery of the country following the pandemic.
Our experience is that the revised planning legislation has been somewhat disruptive, with LPAs which have been struggling to deal with increased numbers of planning applications since the pandemic not being able to accommodate the shortened determination periods. It is evident that a lack of resources is part of the reason why LPAs are failing to deliver ‘Project Speed’ timescales.
However, it is clear the Government is committed to turbocharging the development of public service infrastructure to help deliver essential services to the wider population.
The responsibility now lies with LPAs to prioritise these applications and get things moving in line with the new legislation.
Clarity is also required on what action the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will take if a planning authority does not determine an application in the new time frames.
Oliver added that, in DPP’s experience, some LPAs have a ‘poor view’ of the changes:
There seems to be a general feeling among local planning authorities we have spoken with that the changes have been forced upon LPAs, without any additional funding being provided to meet the new timescales.