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Inspectorate faces crisis point

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Architects have been left reeling after it emerged that the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) is teetering on the brink of disaster.

PINS bosses have admitted that architects lodging written appeals can expect to wait for more than a year before hearing a decision. The current target is 16 weeks.

The delays are expected to leave thousands of architects in limbo as they wait to get the goahead on major projects.

The crisis was triggered by changes that saw a reduction - from six months to three - in the time allowed to take schemes to appeal for non-determination.

As a consequence, developers and architects are overwhelming PINS with appeals.

Brian Waters, a member of the Association of Consultant Architects Planning Advisory Group, warned that the problems would damage the profession.

'The fact is that there will be a lot of architects relying on the fees that these jobs will have provided and now they will have to wait, ' said Waters.

'This is an astonishing position for the ODPM to have allowed itself to get into. How they didn't understand that this was going to happen is beyond me. It must be career civil servants.

'We wrote to ministers in the last few months and warned them that they need to do something about this because this is an emergency. They have now agreed and we understand there will be a meeting next month, ' he added.

One practice suffering as a consequence of the massive delays is London-based Co-Lab Architects, which was informed that its written appeal over a mixeduse development in Bloomsbury would take over a year to decide.

'There is risk that this could have a serious impact on architecture, ' partner Gary McLuskey said. 'The fact is that some smaller projects are being reined in because of the rise in interest rates already. With this on top, it could prove a problem for small practices.

'We are OK because we have a lot of other work on but others will suffer. It is not the inspectors' fault that they are in crisis but someone has to take the blame for not allowing them to take on more staff, ' he added.

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