The number of development plan documents (DPD) being submitted to the Planning Inspectorate fell by a quarter in the three months to the end of August,
Figures from the inspectorate reveal that it received 21 DPDs in this period. This is down 25 per cent on both the previous three months – when 28 plans were submitted – and the same quarter in 2010.
Under the terms of this summer’s draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), councils would be expected to grant permission for “sustainable” development where a local plan is “absent, silent or indeterminate”.
Only 30 per cent of councils have adopted local plans, according to figures released last month by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Earlier this year, DCLG director-general Richard McCarthy urged councils to ensure they have local plans in place or face the risk of losing control over development.
Bob Robinson, senior partner at planning consultancy DPP, said that the government’s announcement of its intention to abolish regional strategies, as well as under-resourced council planning teams, could be the reasons for the slowdown.
Mike Holmes, president of the Planning Officers Society (POS), said that some authorities are reluctant to take on local plans before the final NPPF is published in case they have to make changes to their plans to conform with national policy.
The DCLG said earlier this month that it is looking at a fast-track way of adjusting plans to comply with the framework. But Holmes said the POS’s analysis of the NPPF shows that there are at least 88 points on which it believes plans would need to conform. “It’s not as simple as saying: ‘That looks alright’,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the DCLG said: “We have been clear from the outset that local plans are at the heart of a strong and effective planning system. For those councils without a recently updated plan or without one being prepared, they should recognise the importance to their community of getting such work under way.”