The Royal Town Planning Institute has launched a campaign to scrap targets imposed by government to speed up planning approval
Under the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's development laws, planning officers are required to process 65% of minor cases in eight weeks and 60% of major cases in 13 weeks by 2006.

In a manifesto issued last week, the RTPI called for "an end to simplistic targets based on the speed of decision making". The manifesto says: "It is now time to move on from a system that simply judges the speed taken to make a decision – whether that decision is good or bad."

Kevin McDonald, policy director of the RTPI, said the removal of time-based targets would benefit developers. He said: "When under pressure to make a fast decision, planners may listen to the loudest voices, which are often those that resist development. It's often easier to say no."

He said: "The development industry wants the right decision more than a speedy decision, and one they understand. Maybe some would take longer – but they would be better decisions."

McDonald admitted that the RTPI had not developed alternatives to the current targets. But he said "more flexible" targets would not mean applications took longer.

He said that measures such as pre-application discussions and clearer local planning policies could help to expedite the decision-making process.

McDonald said that the RTPI was lobbying the ODPM and talking to MPs to suggest amendments to parliamentary planning bills.

Andrew Whittaker, national planning adviser at the House Builders Federation, said the HBF would support a change in the system. He said that under the rules now in force, planners were tempted to refuse applications in order to meet targets, and then accept resubmissions. But he added: "We would be worried if there was no pressure on planning authorities to make decisions."

He said the HBF had supported suggestions in a government green paper, which has since been dropped, for developers to agree a decision time with planners before submitting an application.

A spokesperson for the ODPM said the government has no intention of changing the targets.

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