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Planning reforms set to hit housing ambitions

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The mammoth house building programme planned for the South East could be held up by new planning reforms that came into effect last week, the House Builders Federation has warned.

The government hopes the new measures, which reduce the time applicants have to submit a planning, listed building or conservation area appeal from six months to just three, will speed up the planning process.

But Pierre Williams, head of communications for the federation, predicted the changes, originally contained within the ODPM's much-publicised planning bill, would have the opposite effect.

'These changes are just tinkering around the edges, but with the possibility that they could create significant extra time delays for major applications, such as the big developments planned in the Thames Gateway, ' said Williams.

'Reducing the time for appeals may sound like a drive to increase speed. But with housing schemes becoming ever-more complicated as a result of the drive for sustainable, mixed-use and highdensity development, much work looks set to be wasted for failing to fit into the reduced time frame, ' he added.

The result, he cautioned, will be that new applications will have to begin from scratch, resulting in duplication and delay.

Planning minister Keith Hill announced the immediate implementation of the changes last Thursday, which will also require local authorities to give reasons for granting planning permission, listing building or conservation area consent and to consult with Regional Development Agencies before granting permission for certain types of development.

But Williams argued the changes would create an even less efficient system. 'Planning authorities are currently processing just 16 per cent of major applications within the statutory eight-week limit, while the government target is 60 per cent, ' he added. 'This demonstrates the inability of the system to cope.

How increasing the burden can help is a mystery.'

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