Performance update 25 November

On a monthly basis, we publish the latest official statistics on appeals performance, which represent the highest volume (in terms of number of cases) of the work of the Planning Inspectorate.

We also update the appeals handling times data to give customers the latest information on the average time it takes to receive a decision and provide an update on our other main casework areas.

Alongside this month’s update there is also a set of experimental statistics designed to provide more transparency and clarity on how we perform against the Ministerial performance measures announced earlier this year.

Our new method of demonstrating performance against these timescales seeks to show in user-friendly graph form not only the overall performance, but also the proportion of cases being decided within different timescales.

In summary:

Appeals

Our appeal cases are dealt with in one of three ways; written representations, hearings, or inquiries. New Ministerial performance measures were announced earlier this year including an expectation to reduce average decision times over time and make our decision speeds more consistent. All our decision times are measured from the day we receive a valid appeal through to the day we issue a decision. This is the same approach Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) use for application times.

Since April we have been holding hearings for planning appeals much sooner and those appeals are already being decided much quicker. We have not been able to achieve this improvement on our own, so thank you to the LPAs, appellants and other parties who have supported this by sticking to the timetables.

We are still working through previously submitted appeals requiring hearings, the average time for decisions will remain higher. High numbers of hearings are being held over the next few months. More than 40 planning appeal hearings will be held in December, compared to 19 in December 2021.

For the second consecutive month, decisions on appeals dealt with by hearing saw the fastest monthly median of the past twelve months of 40 weeks.

Across all our appeal cases, the median time to decide a case in October was 28.6 weeks. This is the second longest median time for decision in the last twelve months and is driven by longer decision times for appeals decided by written representations, where the median time for a decision continues to be 28 weeks. Our next area of focus will be to start improving times for written representations cases.

The overall number of open cases at the end of October was 14,469. We received 1796 new cases in October and closed 1672 (including withdrawn cases). We are receiving more appeals than we can currently decide, so please focus on resolving issues locally to reduce pressure on the appeals service and help us improve.

In 99 Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) across England appeals can now be submitted using our new digital service new process aimed at making the service easier, faster and more cost-effective. Building on a smaller pilot earlier this year, it introduces a more intuitive appeal submission process. It will be expanded to further LPAs in December.

Experimental statistics report on the number of appeals received that are valid on their first submission. This is one of the new measures that ministers agreed to assess our performance on. They show between July and September 68.9% of appeals were valid on first submission to us. This is higher than the previous quarter and we expect it to increase further as the Inspectorate continues to develop new digital services. Please help us: make sure your appeal has all the supporting information required so it is valid on arrival and more of our colleagues can work on deciding appeals.

The new graphs within the experimental statistics also show the proportion of cases that are decided within different periods of time since November 2021 up to the end of October 2022. These are designed to help provide more detailed information to customers on how long decisions take.

For all the 17,455 cases decided across all appeal types during that period, the graphs show:

  • a quarter of cases were decided within 18 weeks
  • half of all decisions were made within 26 weeks
  • three quarters all decisions were issued within 38 weeks

The graphs also show how the timescales vary when evidence is provided by written representations, hearing or inquiry.

Quality

One of the new ministerial Measures is to publish the number of cases we have quality assured.

The latest statistics for July to September this year show 1057 appeal decisions were quality assured. In addition, eight Local Plan reports and four Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project recommendations were also quality assured.

But what is a ‘quality decision’? Just this week our Head of Inspector Profession Richard Schofield has written a blog asking just this question.

In it he invites feedback and challenge to define our approach in this important area. What factors go into making something that inspectors and all interested parties would regard as being of high quality? Please have a read and give us your thoughts.

Local Plans

  • There are currently 57 live Local Plan examinations in progress. Wirral Council submitted their Local Plan 2021-2037 to us for independent examination at the end of October.
  • Local Plans help to protect communities from speculative or unwanted proposals. We encourage Local Planning Authorities (LPA) to use our advisory visits to help them get their plans in good shape and deal with challenges well before submission.
  • We have recently launched a series of short films to help explain the process of Local Plan examinations and how people can get involved. It followed research which told us communities want to be involved in this important aspect of the planning system, but they often struggle to understand the complexities of the examination process. The videos are aimed at making the whole experience more open and accessible for all.

National Infrastructure

  • we have a high number of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) at various stages:
    • 67 where we are providing advice before submission
    • 14 submitted and at acceptance, pre-examination or examination
    • 1 where we are preparing our recommendation
    • 11 where the relevant Secretary of State is considering our recommendation

In the last two weeks Secretary of State decisions have been announced on three applications where the Planning Inspectorate was the Examining Authority playing a key role in supporting the economic growth of the country.

They are:

  • Portishead Branch Line – MetroWest Phase 1 – rebuilding the disused branch line between Portishead and Pill and reintroduce passenger train services to Bristol and beyond
  • A417 Missing Link – providing a dual carriageway to improve the current “Missing Link” section of single carriageway of the A417 between Cowley roundabout and Crickley Hill
  • A57 Link Roads – including the creation of two new link roads: (1) Mottram Moor Link Road – a new dual carriageway from the M67 junction 4 roundabout to a new junction on the A57(T) at Mottram Moor; and (2) A57 Link Road – a new single carriageway link from the A57(T) at Mottram Moor to a new junction on the A57 in Woolley Bridge.

We continue to meet the statutory deadlines for infrastructure applications as part of continuing to focus on casework with the most economic and community significance.

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