New ministerial performance measures for Planning Inspectorate

The Housing Minister has written to Sarah Richards, The Planning Inspectorate’s Chief Executive to:

  • thank all our employees for their work in keeping casework moving during the pandemic, recognising it is “an immensely important contribution to a fair planning system which supports the economic recovery of the nation”
  • confirm the new measures he will use to monitor our appeals performance
  • commission us to do work on what would be necessary to achieve a further significant improvement in appeal decision timeliness beyond the new measures

Changes to appeals measures

The new measures for appeals better reflect the service our customers want and will support our focus on improvement.

We’ll start reporting on them to Ministers and customers straight away as part of our monthly statistical release and performance updates.

In the new measures:

Out go:

  • the range of different target times for different appeal types: 8, 14, 22, 24, 26, 28, 32, 33 or 43 weeks depending on the appeal type.
  • the target of fewer than 1% of decisions being the subject of successful legal challenge
  • targets based on the ‘start’ date (which is not at the ‘start’ of the customer experience of our services)

In come:

  • an expectation that we put in place measures through our new digital services to prevent invalid appeals being made and that appeals are increasingly submitted “right first time”
  • measuring our decision timeliness from valid receipt of an appeal through to decision to reflect the whole customer experience (as we have already been doing for a few years)
  • an expectation we reduce our average times for decisions and reduce the range of time within which our decisions are made. The average time to decide written representations cases currently varies between 20 and 30 weeks, with some decided as quickly as 8 weeks but some taking more than a year. This range provides insufficient customer certainty
  • moving progressively towards all cases across all appeal types being decided in these ranges:
    • wholly written representations: 16-20 weeks
    • partly or wholly by hearing: 24-26 weeks
    • partly or wholly by inquiry: 24-26 weeks (reflecting the previous Rosewell target)
  • publishing the number of cases we have quality assured

National Infrastructure and Local Plans

The statutory timeframes for national infrastructure applications and the target for local plans remain as before but may change when current proposals for wider reforms are finalised.

Chief Executive Sarah Richards said:

“The measures by which ministers assess The Planning Inspectorate’s performance have needed updating for a considerable time to better reflect what our customers want. The replacement measures are good news for us and our customers and will support us implementing ongoing improvements.

We know our decisions are currently taking too long and customers tell us their experience of our services is too inconsistent. We are working hard to improve this in the short term and continue to invest in recruiting and training more inspectors. Achieving the ambition of these new measures will not be quick, or without dissatisfaction from some, but everyone at The Planning Inspectorate will work together to achieve them.

We are also investing in the long term, building digital public services which will be at the forefront of a digital planning system and piloting innovative new approaches which have the potential to support both our work and the wider planning system.

I welcome the Minister’s request to report to him on what would be necessary to support a further significant improvement in appeals. This recognises the importance of a fair appeal system to the nation’s economy and is an important opportunity to reflect on how the appeal system can be reframed to operate sustainably for the future. We will engage with key stakeholders on this in due course before we report to the Minister.”

The full letter from the Minister is available to read.

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