Research carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that the vast majority of businesses that have significant experience of submitting planning applications believe decisions are made on purely political grounds.
The poll also found that over half of the more than 5,300 businesses surveyed thought planning committees made decisions contrary to the advice of planning officers whose job is the interpretation of planning rules and guidance i.e. the supposed basis for decision making.
The research found that among businesses that had declined to bother to submit a planning application, just over 1 in 10 had not done so because of "cost, complexity, delays, and/or a belief that they would simply not be granted permission" leading to a “depressed demand" from businesses with an interest in expanding their premises. This demand is being stifled because they are reluctant to take the pot luck of submitting an application. The report goes on to conclude that, without planning reform, this situation will continue.
The survey also revealed that nearly three-quarters of experienced applicants said the planning advice they are given is "inconsistent across local authority boundaries".
BCC director general John Longworth said: "Our survey findings clearly show that the planning process is a barrier for companies of all sizes – and that in some cases, it’s holding back the economic growth we so desperately need.
"We need to get the debate on planning reform away from hysteria and back to common sense. Business people understand that planning has a purpose, and that developers can’t just build anything, anywhere.
"It’s not a case of throwing out the rulebook to grow the economy at any cost. Yet there’s clear evidence that the system is too complicated, too costly, and too uncertain. It creates mistrust among businesses, undermines investment, and holds back our recovery."
Longworth added that businesses experience of planning on "even the most modest developments" showed that the system was a "serious brake on economic growth, prosperity and jobs".
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