§ Mr. Churchill
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he gives to local authorities as regards an acceptable time scale for the determination of a planning application; what target time scale he sets for determination of planning issues within his Department; what is the average length of time taken by his Department to arrive at a decision on such applications following the completion of a public inquiry; and why it has now taken more than three years in the case of the application for a regional shopping centre at Dumplington, Trafford Park, Manchester.
§ Mr. Yeo
The Government have set local authorities the target of deciding 80 per cent. of planning applications within eight weeks.
The Department has a target of determining 80 per cent. of those planning applications which are called in for the Secretary of State's decision within 13 weeks from the date on which the inspector's report is received. The target for planning appeals which are recovered for the Secretary of State's decision, rather than being transferred to a planning inspector for decision, is to determine 80 per cent. within eight weeks of receiving the inspector's report. Of cases decided in 1990, 64 per cent. of called-in applications were decided within 13 weeks; 59 per cent. of recovered appeals were decided within eight weeks.
Occasionally, decisions take substantially longer because the scale or nature of the proposed development raises complex issues. I understand the frustration caused by the long delay in issuing the decision on two called-in applications and an appeal relating to the Dumplington scheme. This has been caused by the need to consider carefully the comments made by the parties about the access proposals. As I said in reply to my hon. Friend on 11 February, I cannot yet forecast when it will be possible to decide these cases. I will write to interested parties as soon as I can.