The government is set to use “hit squads” of planning experts to take over from council staff in local authorities that fail to meet their planning targets.
A source close to planning minister Lord Falconer said the government was keen to use the teams to speed up the approval process.

The proposals will be an addition to the government’s planning green paper, which was launched last month.

The source said: “There are indications that the government is prepared to grasp this nettle and treat failing local authorities in the same way it treats failing schools.”

It is hoped that the threat of special staff taking over executive control of planning applications will help turn around the poor national record of planning departments.

If we have sanctions, performance could only improve

Source close to Lord Falconer

Thirty of the 400 authorities in the UK now meet the target of deciding on 80% of applications within eight weeks. The average performance is 65%.

The source said: “If we are going to set targets and authorities fail and continue to fail, we should be prepared to take away their responsibilities. If we have sanctions, performance can only improve.”

The plan came under fire from the Royal Town Planning Institute, which said it would be ineffective. David Rose, external affairs director, said: “The concept is not relevant because planning is not a bureaucracy; it is a mixture of administration and discretionary decision-making.”