Fast-track plans attacked

Brandon Lewis
Brandon Lewis

Changes to planning regulations that could see housing applications fast-tracked have been given a frosty reception from a Wigan residents’ group.

Concerns have been raised speeding up the system could lead to the views of communities bypassed, Standish Voice has said.

The proposed regulations, which are now under consultation, are expected to boost housebuilding to prevent “drawn out applications and local frustration” for applicants.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “Council planning departments play a vital role in getting local housebuilding off the ground, but for too long they have had no incentive to get things done quickly or better, resulting in drawn out applications and local frustration.

“These proposals will be a boost for housebuilders looking to build much needed new homes for hard working families and first time buyers, and for local people looking to get a planning permission for home improvements through their local council quicker.”

The proposals will increase local choice by giving applicants the choice of whether to submit their plans to the local council, a competing council or a government approved organisation that would process applications up until the decision point, the Department for Communities and Local Government said.

Standish Voice, which acts as a neighbourhood forum for the ward which has seen an influx of housing development in recent years sparking concerns over their impact on infrastructure and local amenities, suggested the proposals are too heavily weighted in the favour of developers.

A spokesman said: “We are not against competition but local council planning officers are best placed to see through very complex planning applications.

“Councils already have to decide planning applications in a timely fashion and that is our experience of Wigan Council in relation to Standish’s housing schemes.

“Speeding up the planning process could mean that local people are not allowed their democratic right to be heard - which would be totally wrong.

“In general, delay in house building is by far the fault of developers, who sit on sites with planning permission and refuse to build houses.

“There are sites in Wigan borough outside Standish which have planning permission for homes where no building is taking place, due to developers’ failure to deliver.

“This has lead to more housing schemes being passed in Standish over an above what should be allowed in the local plan because not enough homes are being built in total across the borough.

“Developers seem to be getting everything their own way from the government at the moment.”

Further details on how pilot schemes will run will be published after the consultation has closed.

Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Many councils are already working hard to improve the services they offer their residents, and across the country people’s satisfaction levels remain high.

“Now we want to go further by setting out these ambitious proposals to link any future increases in application fees to councils’ performance, and testing more competition including through offering dedicated fast track application services.”