PriceWaterhouse Coopers widens inquiry into regulatory system as planners slam government efficiency drive
The Treasury has brought in accountant PriceWaterhouse Coopers to assess the costs of the planning system, including the costs of appeals and enforcement processes.
PWC's investigation, which is part of a wider review into regulation announced in last December's pre-Budget report, will concentrate on planning processes rather than policy. It will work out how much planning appeals and delays are costing the system and make proposals to the government on how to cut these out.
The study will be published at the same time as the pre-Budget report later this year. It is expected to be acted on by the government, which is under pressure from the Conservative opposition to prove its deregulatory credentials.
Every government department is expected to publish an action plan showing how it will reduce administrative burdens on business and charities.
Mike Gwilliam, planning director of the South East England Regional Assembly, gave evidence to the PWC review last week. He criticised the inquiry's focus on cost and its failure to look at the benefits delivered by the planning system.
Gideon Amos, director of the Town and Country Planning Association, said any attempt to dismantle the planning system in the name of efficiency would stoke the anti-development backlash. He said: "Regulation is costly but if you fail to cover the environmental requirements, development becomes less acceptable. You need to reassure people that development is done in the right way."
You need to reassure people that development is done in the right way
Gideon Amos, director of the Town and Country Planning Association
The widening of the scope of PWC's report comes at a time when planning is under the spotlight of two other government reviews.
In last year's pre-Budget report, chancellor Gordon Brown's commissioned Kate Barker to carry out a review of the impact planning has on enterprise.
This week the Audit Commission published a report calling for radical changes to planning procedures. It concluded that there is still an acute shortage of experienced planners.
The report backs up widespread business criticism that planning reforms have increased the strain on the system. It also concludes that the government drive to process applications more quickly is undermining the quality of service.