Housing minister says all planning decisions will be taken in a year

Housing minister Grant Shapps has pledge to consult this summer on introducing a guarantee to determine planning applications within 12 months.

Speaking the Home Builders’ Federation annual lunch yesterday, Shapps said the guarantee, floated originally in the March Budget, would cover the “entire planning process” including appeals to the Planning Inspectorate.

Shapps said: “Our reforms are not just about getting the right plans implemented by councils. We’re also going to introduce a 12 month planning guarantee for the entire planning process, from beginning to end, including the planning inspectorate.”

Shapps said the consultation would be brought out alongside the consultation into the wider national planning framework, expected in July. He conceded there would have to be penalties for local authorities that failed to make decisions in the required time, but declined to say what these would be.

The HBF estimated in 2008 that it takes on average 15.5 months for housebuilders to be granted planning permission.

A report into the planning process by former Barratt boss David Pretty and Essex County Council leader Joanna Killian found that £300m of business costs could be saved a year by speeding up the planning process.

David Pretty said: “The 12 month guarantee is very welcome and reassuring proposal. However for it to be beginning to end, I hope the proposals will take into account the time in pre-application discussions. If it doesn’t, then we might not see a substantial improvement in the time applications take to be determined.”

Shapps also confirmed Building’s report last month that the government had abandoned plans to introduce a Local Standards Framework under which councils could choose from a list of locally-imposed regulations to impose. Shapps said: “I took the decision that it was possible we were heading toward the worst of all worlds where councils would all choose all of the regulations on the list, and then add their own for good measure. I didn’t want to see that happen.”

Shapps said he was committed to cutting red tape for housebuilders.