Are the planning authorities becoming the major threat to future economic growth in the UK?

Wherever you turn, whether it's housing, transport or a routine extension to office or factory premises, the planning system and the people who run it are getting in the way of economic progress.

What is certain is that the planning regime as it is currently operating is failing to deliver for business.

The UK is the fourth largest economy on earth and yet we still have a planning system that was created in 1947, underwent a makeover a couple of years ago, and still can't deliver. It remains wasteful, slow, holds back wealth creation, and develops uncertainty at the very time so many of our lives require and deserve the opposite.

Business welcomed the Government's commitment to bring the planning system into the 21st Century but sadly these have not been translated into positive results. The system has become overloaded with bureaucracy and has lost its focus. These problems are now striking at the very heart of the region's continued prosperity. If you add to this the short-sightedness of some local politicians and officials, then we are facing a potentially dire situation.

So what sort of problems are we talking about?

Since 2001, the process of securing planning permission has become more difficult, lengthy and costly for business.

The Government's imposed performance guidelines may have made matters worse by actually leading planning authorities to reject applications.

And chronic shortages of skilled staff have made matters worse.

The number of planners entering the public sector has remained stable for the last ten years while planning applications have risen by 50 per cent.

Increased complexities have created a boom for private sector consultants and this in turn has made it more difficult for local councils to attract the best staff.

Appeals are frequently not heard for more than a year and this adds to the cost and the uncertainty for business.

At a time when the Government wants to increase the housing stock, a massive one third of all planning applications for new homes are rejectedmore than twice the level of 1998/9and there has been a 30 per cent increase in appeals against planning decisions since 2001.

Not content with presiding over a system that is creaking, the Government is now thinking seriously about introducing a new tax on developmentthe Planning Gain Supplement.

This can only serve to undermine the Government's attempts to increase the supply of housing and promote economic growth.

  • With Steve Rankin of CBI