Inquiry into ways to speed up planning system will not investigate resources for council planners

A review designed to speed up the planning system announced this week by the government will not examine the resourcing of council planning departments.

David Pretty, the former chief executive of Barratt, is to jointly lead the review which will report in the autumn on how to make planning more efficient.

However, one issue seen as key to making the current system work more efficiently – the level of resourcing for planning authorities – will be outside the remit of the review.

Instead the review, entitled Planning Applications: a Faster and More Responsive System, will focus on removing red tape.

Rynd Smith, policy director for the Royal Town Planning Institute, criticised this decision. He said: “However you change the system, resourcing is an essential part of it. It’s probably the most important question.”

The government has announced funding of £510m for council planning departments in 2008-11.

Pretty, who is chair of the New Homes Marketing Board, wrote a paper last year for the Smith Institute in which he said the resourcing of the planning system was a key issue. However he confirmed the subject was outside the review’s remit. “But if consultees continue to raise this as an issue we’ll certainly take it up with government,” he said.

In general he said that despite “a lot of effort” from the government, it now took “four to five times longer to get permission than it did a generation ago”.

According to the Home Builders Federation, it now takes an average of 15.5 months from submission to approval.

Pretty will lead the review alongside Joanna Killian, chief executive of Essex council, and will report to housing minister Caroline Flint and construction minister Baroness Vadera.