Special measures for Hounslow?

Hounslow Council could find itself subject to the Department for Communities & Local Government’s ‘Special Measures’, with developers able to send applications direct to the Planning Inspectorate, according to a report.

Councils who fail to determine more than 30% of major applications within the required time over a two year period could find themselves put on to the planning equivalent of a ‘naughty step’, according to guidance issued by DCLG. Now an analysis by Planning Magazine has found that Hounslow were one of seven councils to fail to reach that threshold over the first 18 months of the defined period.

Cllr Steve Curran, Hounslow’s cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, refuted the Planning magazine article, saying: “We are confident that we will not be subject to special measures because over the last six months, we have seen a sustained increase in the number of major planning applications determined within 13 weeks, making decisions on 75 per cent of the applications received.  Where possible, we encourage the use of Planning Performance Agreements with major developers – when timetables are agreed in advance – and this also helps to meet the required deadlines.

“Our planning department prides itself in proactively negotiating with developers to address the concerns of local residents while still designing schemes that will bring regeneration and community benefit.  This has resulted in better urban design and a very high percentage of approved applications which deliver quality developments that benefit the borough, within government timescales, but it does mean that applications can take longer than the 13 week time limit.

“The Planning magazine article is misleading as it is based on last year’s performance figures for determining major schemes, but the position has now totally changed, based on improved performance in 2013.”

The analysis ranks Hounslow at 26.5% decided within the time limit on major applications. The worst performing council is Horsham, at 19.8%.

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