In this Regional Market Report series we examine performance across the Midlands.
We’ll be taking a look at the average determination periods, residential application approvals and overturn ratios.
Average application determination periods
Most planning applications are supposed to be decided within 8 weeks, with major applications being given 13 weeks, and EIA developments given 16 weeks from validation to determination. LPAs report on the proportion of applications that were delivered within this time period. However, when the stats are reported they normally take into account ‘extensions of time’ where the officer has pre-agreed with the applicant that the assessment period can be extended.
If there is an agreed extension of time then the LPA can report the applications as being within the agreed period, no matter the number of actual weeks that have elapsed. LPAs can be placed into ‘special measures’ if more than 60% of their major applications, or 70% of their non-major planning applications are not determined within the agreed period.
In order to adjust for this reporting method we have ignored the published data and looked instead at the number of weeks between the validation date and determination date to provide an average determination period for major and non-major planning applications and we have examined this performance as a trend from 2018 to 2022.
Within the WMCA area, we can see a trend of decision times for non-major applications reducing over the five years that we examined, although some LPAs (including Redditch, Solihill, and Telford and Wrekin) showed a reversal of this trend in 2022 following an increase in average determination periods.
When we look at the data for major planning applications, where the target period is 13 weeks (or 16 weeks for major planning applications that are EIA Development) you can see a similar trend. Notably here, some LPAs (North Warwickshire, Redditch, Rugby, Stratford-on-Avon, and Telford and Wrekin) have been taking on average longer than 40 weeks to determine major applications at times during the last five years. This lengthy determination period is hidden by the reported statistics and should be considered by applicants when they’re making their development cost assumptions.
Rest of West Midlands
Outside of the WMCA area, we can see from the data that the average determination periods are generally longer – with LPAs including South Staffordshire, Stafford, and Warwick waiting over 30 weeks, on average, for the determination of a non-major planning application. As an applicant, if you had been expecting to receive a determination within eight weeks, you might be surprised to learn that it is only in Newcastle-under-Lyme that you could regularly expect this to be delivered over the last five years.
The story is slightly better for major planning applications in the areas of the West Midlands that are not within the WMCA. It seems that you’re more likely to face a wait of at least six months (26 weeks) for a decision on a planning application that should have been delivered within 13 (or 16) weeks.
Urban East Midlands
In the urban centres of the East Midlands (Derby, Leicester, and Nottingham) decision times for non-major applications have been remaining consistent at or around 10 weeks, with major applications taking slightly longer.
Rest of East Midlands
The data shows that for non-major planning applications in the east Midlands there is a trend of non-major planning applications being determined in less than 10 weeks, although some outliers (High Peak, Gedling, North West Leicestershire, and Rutland) where determination periods have been substantially longer.
For major planning applications in the east Midlands, the data shows that although some LPAs are able to meet the 13 or 16 week determination period, the general trend is for major applications to take much longer. The average time for major applications in South Kesteven Council in 2018 was a massive 121 weeks
Residential planning application approval ratio
We have looked at the proportion of residential planning applications that were approved by each LPA in the region, and the proportion of refused applications that were later overturned at appeal.
Within the WMCA area the data shows that the majority of LPAs have been approving between 75% and 100% of major and non-major planning applications between 2018 and 2022. The exception to this is Birmingham City Council where between 50% and 75% of applications are approved. As for appeal overturns, most of the WMCA LPAs are seeing an overturn rate of between 20% and 40%, and all of the LPAs are seeing overturn rates above the government’s performance benchmark of 10%.
Rest of West Mids
Outside of the WMCA it is a similar picture, with the majority of LPAs approving more than 75% of the major and non-major planning applications that they are asked to determine. The exceptions to this trend are Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Moorlands Councils where approval rates are between 50% and 75%. As for appeal overturns, much like the WMCA LPAs, in the rest of the West Midland there is an overturn rate of between 20% and 40%, and all of the LPAs are seeing overturn rates above the government’s performance benchmark of 10%.
Urban East Midlands
Derby and Nottingham are both approving between 75% and 100% of major and non-major planning applications, while approval rates in Leicester are less impressive, sitting between 50% and 75%. Unlike the LPAs in the West Midlands, refusals in the urban East Midlands are more likely to stick, only one refusal for a major planning application has been overturned in the last year. Appeals for non-major planning applications are more likely to be overturned, with success rates of 35% for applicants in Derby and Nottingham, and 20% in Leicester.
Rest of East Mids
Outside of the major centres in the East Midlands it is a similar picture, with the majority of LPAs approving more than 75% of the major and non-major planning applications that they are asked to determine. The exceptions to this trend are Hinckley and Bosworth where approval rates tend to be less than 50%, and Blaby Council where approval rates are between 50% and 75%.
As for appeal overturns, much like the WMCA LPAs, in the rest of the West Midlands there is an overturn rate of between 20% and 40%, and all of the LPAs are seeing overturn rates above the government’s performance benchmark of 10%. When assessing the number of appeals overturned, the small sample size - particularly for major applications where most LPAs have less than five major applications in a year - means that the results look more damning than they necessarily are. Fifteen of the LPAs in this group have an overturn rate for major planning applications that were over 50%.
From the data that we looked at you can see a mixed picture across the Midlands, while overall, there may be some LPAs that are getting runs on the board. Other LPAs (notably, Sandwell, Bromsgrove, and Hinkley and Bosworth) have got demonstrable problems with both historic delivery and future land supply. These councils will find it very hard to defend against development applications that they deem inappropriate because the ‘presumption in favour’ or ‘tilted balance’ is likely to be in play should an application end up before an inspector.
On top of this, it’s clear from the data that we’ve collated that the determination for both major and non-major planning applications are longer than is being reported once extensions of time are excluded from the calculations. Although this won’t affect the reported performance of any of the LPAs, the realistic determination periods should be a consideration of applicants hoping for a rapid determination of their application.
If you've enjoyed the data insights about determination periods and application approvals in the Midlands, check out our other planning reports for the region below:
- The Midlands: Land Constraints
- The Midlands: Strategic Land
- The Midlands: Demographics
- The Midlands: The Housing Market
- The Midlands: LPA Performance fact sheets