The Government’s planning system is ‘underperforming’ and struggling to deliver on its aim of building 300,000 homes a year, auditors have found.
According to a report published last week by the National Audit Office (NAO), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) standard method for local authorities to assess the number of new homes needed in their area reduced the need for new homes in five out of nine regions.
Auditors also criticised the Government for only doing a ‘rough estimate’ of the infrastructure funding required for new homes.
The MHCLG reports that local authorities are increasingly processing planning applications within target timescales.
However, according to the NAO, this might reflect a greater use of time extensions rather than increased efficiency.
The NAO found that the Planning Inspectorate acknowledged it was slow to determine appeals from developers whose applications have been refused.
Head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, said: ‘From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure it is clear the planning system is not working well.
‘The Government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.’
Local Government Association housing spokesman, Cllr Martin Tett, said: ‘We remain clear that the Government’s housing needs formula does not take into account the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place. This risks leading to a housebuilding free-for-all which will bypass the needs of local communities and could damage public trust in the planning system.’
Responding to the report, housing minister Kit Malthouse said: ‘I recognise the challenges identified by the NAO, and the simple truth is over the last three decades, governments of all stripes have built too few homes of all types.
‘We are determined to build the homes this country needs and planning plays a key role in our desire to build more, better, faster.'
This week housing secretary James Brokenshire said speeding up Planning Inspectorate decisions could help the Government ‘achieve its ambition of delivering 300,000 homes each year by the mid-2020s’.
His comments came after an independent review into planning inquiries made proposals that could speed up the time taken to decide the most contentious appeals by five months.
Speaking at a conference last week, chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, said the current planning system only provided the ‘illusion of local decision-making’.