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Masthead Housing - Planning

Budget cuts hitting ability of councils to tackle unauthorised development: RTPI

Complexity and cost are preventing councils from tackling unauthorised developments in England, the Royal Town Planning Institute has warned.

In a submission to a government consultation on unauthorised development and encampments, the RTPI’s National Association of Planning Enforcement said budget cuts – “disproportionately focused on planning enforcement teams” – had resulted in councils “being unable to take necessary enforcement action on unauthorised developments and encampments, in particular traveller sites”.

This was undermining public confidence in the planning enforcement system, it argued.

The RTPI NAPE said the now closed government fund set up to provide funding for councils taking out injunctions was not used enough because of the excessive amount of paperwork required to access it.

“Alongside this and exacerbated by budget cuts is a shortage of enforcement officers and a lack of expertise in how to use the range of planning powers available to them,” it added.

RTPI NAPE Chair Neil Whittaker said: “Planning enforcement officers play a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the planning system by ensuring decisions made are upheld. Enforcement teams have been among the hardest hit by years of budget cuts, making it increasingly difficult to do this important work.

“On top of this, PINS - the government agency responsible for ruling on enforcement appeals - is very slow. Some of us are waiting up to 57 weeks for a decision on an appeal and this making it very difficult for officers to do their jobs.”

The RTPI NAPE called on the Government to improve the performance of PINS and streamline the appeals process.

It also urged the Government to support local authorities to provide enough sites for travellers in local plans to avoid the need to undertake enforcement action.

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