One of my constituents runs a loft-conversion business and he asked me whether anything could be done to speed up the planning process for small, non-controversial jobs to get the building trade going. "And to get your profits going," I said.
"Of course," he replied. "But this isn't just about increasing sales. This is work people already want done. It's just sitting in someone's tray somewhere in the council planning department, going mouldy." He explained that he works with a number of local architects who all complain that they have numerous applications for small loft conversion and extensions awaiting planning approval.
The current system is slow and bureaucratic. Planning permission is necessary to prevent unlawful developments, and to allow neighbours to object to unreasonable developments. Still, he has a good point. If simple planning permissions could be fast tracked through the process it would, at least, provide some impetus to help get our sluggish economy moving again.
Having sat on the planning committee a few times, and listened to residents my experience of the current quasi-judicial planning system is that it fails everyone: fails residents, fails communities, fails local business and frustrates economic recovery. The current system is in dire need of reforming and radical plans are in progress for more controversial developments with open source planning.
Actually he has a good point? What needs to be done to fast-track simple non controversial minor applications? How do we streamline the planning process and how would you define projects suitable for fast-tracking? I would love to hear from anyone who has got experience in other boroughs doing things better that we can learn from?