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5th September 2012
By Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent
Two thousand extra building projects every month have been given the green light by councils since the Coalition's controversial planning reforms were unveiled in the spring, according to figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph.
A regional breakdown provided by Glenigan shows that the south east of England and London accounted for one in three of the successful approvals.
They show that proportion of planning permissions being granted for new homes has also increased significantly since April, when the hotly-debated National Planning Policy Framework came into force.
The actual number of extra homes being approved is likely to be far higher because a significant proportion of the approved projects - around three in 10 - is likely to contain tens or even hundreds of new homes.
The statistics are likely to lead to questions about the urgent need from Chancellor George Osborne to rip apart the delicate consensus on the new planning rules at the end of March.
The increase would appear to vindicate campaigners such as the National Trust which succeeded in watering down the original planning changes, as it appears to show that building has increased but not in the uncontrolled fashion as feared.
The Daily Telegraph also led the Hands Off Our Land campaign against the changes, arguing that they were too biased in favour of developers.
Statistics from construction industry analysts Glenigan show 81 per cent of residential planning applications were approved in the five months since the NPPF was introduced, compared with 73 per cent in the previous five months.
In all, 85,501 out of 105,235 residential planning applications were approved between April 1 and August 31 compared with 75,567 out of 103,806 between November 1 and March 31 this year – an increase in approvals of nearly 10,000.
The proportion is similar to the April-August period last year, when 82 per cent of residential applications were granted. But campaigners said the marked increase should give the Government pause for thought.
Glenigan said that seven out of 10 of the residential approvals could be single houses, with the remainder for multi-home applications for “two, three, four five or even 100 new homes”.
Robert Davis, research director for Glenigan, said: “Our independent primary research shows that since the changes to the NPPF the proportion of projects gaining planning permission has risen.
“When we compare the five months before the change to five months since, we see housing up by 8 per cent and non-residential schemes up by 1 per cent.
"This equates to around 10,000 more schemes approved since the NPPF was introduced."
“Some 81 per cent of residential applications have been approved since the introduction of the NPPF - this compares to 73 per cent during the five months leading up to the change."
Glenigan's data, gathered every week from councils, are relied on by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, as well as the Ordnance Survey. In contrast the Office for National Statistics only collates quarterly information.
The figures are for planning applications for building work in England and Wales and exclude minor applications such as work to trees or advertising hoardings.
The research also shows that a marginally greater proportion of businesses' planning applications were approved - 81 per cent since the NPPF was introduced, compared with 80 per cent in the previous five months, although the overall approvals figure fell from 25,919 to 24,252.
The figures are also a big improvement on the same period last year, when just 75 per cent of non-residential applications were approved.
Campaigners said the increase in the proportion of applications showed the need for caution about any further changes.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Clearly one shouldn't read too much into ten months' figures, but they do suggest that the Chancellor is wrong to give up on his own Government's reforms so quickly.
“Ministers have been committed to putting local people in charge of planning decisions because that is the way both to win consent for development and to ensure better quality development.
“No good reason has been given for lurching from localism to centralism, however much the Chancellor may admire the Chinese planning regime.”
A spokesman for the National Trust added: “These figures seem to show that planning is not the problem it is sometimes made out to be.
“The new National Planning Policy Framework is now in place, and local plans are being revised. The last thing business needs is the uncertainty that comes with endlessly rewriting planning rules.”
A Government spokesman said:"The NPPF better supports growth, helping create the homes and jobs that the country needs and puts unprecedented power into the hands of communities, whilst protecting the environment.
"However, as the Chancellor said this weekend, we have to up the tempo of development and activity in this country. There is clearly room for improvement in the speed of the planning process.
“The Government is doing everything it can to promote growth, including looking at planning, and will announce reforms shortly."
Read the article on the Telegraph website
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