The data published today on planning applications on the face of it should provide house builders and their suppliers with some comfort.

The figures show that in the final quarter of last year the number of planning decisions for major residential developments – those with 10 or more homes – rose for the second quarter in a row.

Admittedly the number, 1,300 in the quarter, is about half that of the average during the boom years between 2003 and 2008, but the pattern is upward from the low of 1,100 in the three months to June last year.  

But what will cheer house builders more is that the proportion granted has risen to 78% from a low of 63% just 18 months ago (see graph).

What's more, the proportion of schemes getting a decision within 13 weeks (see graph) has remained high at 68%, despite more of the decisions being positive.

In the past there was evidence that planning authorities were improving their performance figures by making rapid decisions on rejections, which was a very easy way to trick the target and put many more schemes in the "decided quickly" pot.

So one might have expected a fall in the number of schemes decided within 13 weeks if there were fewer rejections. This appears not to have happened.

Encouraging as these figures are, it may be too early to pat planners on the back for a job well done, as the improvement may not be all down to them.

A huge number of the schemes now being put to planning authorities are for replanning of  already permissioned sites, as house builders look to meet the radically shifted demand in the market - basically towards lower density and fewer flats.

For example, Taylor Wimpey reckons that it expects to replan nearly 60% of its sites with detailed planning.

Also the planners have roughly half the number of major residential schemes coming through that they had a couple of years ago, easing the strain of the authorities.

But for all that, taken in the round these are probably the most impressive set of planning application statistics we have seen for almost a decade.