NFU opposes Accelerated Planning System proposals

02 May 2024

A view of a farm shop taken from across a field of crops

Changes to the planning process for commercial developments could see more applications being refused and lengthy appeals taking place. 

The NFU is opposing proposals to speed up the planning service for major commercial development applications. 

The government is proposing different measures to reduce the time local authorities spend determining applications in the hope of speeding up the planning process. The proposals, which relate to England only, include: 

  • An “Accelerated Planning Service” for major commercial applications
  • Changing regulations around extensions of time

The government has provided no timescales or dates for a response to this consultation, nor has it provided information on when proposals are likely to be implemented.

This consultation closed on 1 May.

You can read more about the consultation at: GOV.UK | An accelerated planning system

NFU position

The NFU’s stance on the above proposals is one of concern. The proposals are unsympathetic to resourcing and workload pressures already experienced by local authorities with planning departments seeing major budget reductions since 2011.

It may at first seem strange for the NFU to oppose reforms to reduce determination time in the planning system, but the impacts, if proposals are implemented, will be far reaching.

The proposals will lead to local authorities refusing more applications to produce a decision in time, in turn leading to more appeals, which are often expensive and controversial. There is no assurance the quality of decision making will be protected, as corners may have to be cut with authorities pressured to work at speed.

Local authorities simply do not have the budgets or resources to properly ensure that they can deliver their required planning services. The government’s current proposals will not offer local authorities the support they need.

1 May 2024

Consultation closes

This consultation has now closed.

30 April 2024

NFU submits response

The NFU has responded to the consultation expressing concerns at the proposed wholesale reduction in the amount of time spent determining applications. The NFU has always sought for a more streamlined and efficient planning system, but we do not see these proposals to be the correct approach.

We would wish to see a faster planning system with a greater number of positive outcomes
across England but we believe that proposed reforms will in fact do the opposite.

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) simply do not have the capacity, nor the resources, to successfully carry out proposals and will have to refuse more applications to ensure they are staying within timescales. This will negatively impact more complex cases, leading to a rise in appeals, creating unnecessary burden that will not benefit any stakeholder in the planning process.

The NFU supports measures that speed up the planning system but not in a way that compromises the ability to make good planning decisions.

You can read the NFU's response in full at: An accelerated planning system consultation – NFU response

6 March 2024

Government opens consultation

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is consulting on a series of measures aimed at speeding up the planning system.

The consultation consists of four parts, two of which are of interest to the NFU:

  1. introduce a new Accelerated Planning Service for major commercial applications with a decision time in 10 weeks and fee refunds if this is not met
  2. change the use of extensions of time, including ending their use for householder applications and only allowing one extension of time for other developments, which links to a proposed new performance measure for local planning authority speed of decision-making against statutory time limits

Accelerated Planning System

The government is seeking to introduce a new route for implementation of major (1,000 sqm or more) commercial developments. The new route would give the local authority 10 weeks to determine the application instead of the standard 13, with any time overruns resulting in the applicant receiving a full refund on the planning application fee. The government has termed this as “a prompt service or your money back”.

The government is consulting on whether this new route should be mandatory for local authorities or at their discretion. The consultation is further seeking views on whether there should be further development included in the new pathway. The government mentioned but has not confirmed a similar route for housing sites.

Changing regulations around extensions of time and monitoring decision making times

An extension of time is a formal agreement between the local authority and the applicant to extend the time an application can be decided under. There is no current limit on the duration of an extension of time nor the quantity that can be agreed during the determination of a single application.

Furthermore, local authorities are obligated to deliver a percentage of applications ‘on time’ or within the agreed timescales. The government is proposing that these timescales should be reduced with the hope that this will drive efficiency.

If the local authority does not meet the required thresholds for determining applications on time they are at risk of being placed under special measures. Special measures allow applicants to submit applications to central government. The local authority loses the ability to have full control over what planning applications are approved in their locality.

The government has proposed that extensions of time can only be made once during the same application determination period, as well as a complete removal for householder applications.

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6 March 2024: Government opens consultation seeking views on proposals to speed up the application route for implementation of major (1,000 sqm or more) commercial developments

30 April 2024: We submit out response opposing the proposals

1 May 2024: Consultation closes