Broken planning system in London means those in affluent areas more likely to get approval

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Home owners in more affluent London boroughs are the most likely to have planning permission approved as the system is ‘broken’ in many areas, a new study has found.

Planning authorities where the average house price is over a £1 million are more likely to grant approvals than boroughs with an average of under £500,000, according to the research by online architectural platform Resi.

The firm carried out an analysis of planning application data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to see if there was a pattern.

It found that Hillingdon in West London, where the average house price is £452,056, is the borough which is least likely to grant planning permission at 50%, closely followed by Barking and Dagenham at 53% which has the lowest average house price out of all London boroughs at £305,733.

The City of London, which boasts an average house price of £835,061, is the borough where approvals are most likely to be granted at 95%, followed by Southwark at 92% and then Richmond at 88%.

The firm says that with the wealth of developments in central London it doesn’t come as a surprise to see both The City of London and Southwark ranked as the highest as the councils push the applications through to drive growth within the area.

However, it adds that the discrepancies across London boroughs could come down to the fact that councils across the UK, including the capital, have had their funding cut, with more cuts expected in the future.

Also, a lack of funding could be adding to strain on council services, including planning departments. This could mean that when faced with more complex applications there is less time and resource to dedicate to the case and therefore the application is more likely to be denied.

In addition, London has a wide variety of housing stock within the capital, for which some it is easier to get planning than others. With a style of property often located within a certain area this could be another reason for the discrepancies across boroughs. Not to mention that a proportion of properties in the capital will be within conservation areas and therefore cannot be outwardly developed.

‘Planning applications are becoming a postcode lottery. Councils are under a great deal of pressure, not just as a result of funding cuts, but also from nimbys looking to block developments in their own area,’ said Alex Depledge, Resi chief executive officer.

‘Whilst it is common sense that a comparable house extension that is approved in one borough should generally be approved in another, this isn’t always the case. Although home owners can take steps to improve the chances of their applications being approved, more needs to be done to reform the planning application procedure,’ he pointed out.

‘Streamlining the process will mean common house extensions can be reviewed quickly and simply, leaving officials more time to deal with the complex applications that require additional time,’ he explained.

‘For home owners about to make an application, getting advice from an architect who has experience in dealing with your council will help avoid any common mistakes and secure the desired outcome as smoothly as possible. In addition, make sure to check council websites just in case they publish any information online,’ he added.

According to Nick Stockley, the firm’s lead designer, it can be said that the planning system feels broken in many London areas. ‘Thanks to an imposed eight week deadline, those councils without the resources to manage the level of planning applications coming in feel pressured to turn decisions around quickly,’ he said.

‘They don’t have the time to liaise with the homeowner’s planning agent, whereas wealthier councils are able to help their applicants make changes that ensure plans go through first time,’ he added.

‘It’s a self-defeating exercise, as home owners who get rejected first time will simply come back again and again, until approval is given. Adding more work to a local authority unable to cope. This not only slows down the development in the area, but wastes money funding this maddening process,’ he concluded.

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Written by: Houseladder