§ Mr. Waterson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what performance targets he has set for the Planning Inspectorate for the financial year 1996–97; and how these compare with targets and outturns for earlier years. 
§ Mr. Robert B. Jones
I have today set new performance targets for the Planning Inspectorate which reflect changes in the content and priorities of its work load. Since its launch in 1992, the proportion of inspector resources devoted to development plan inquiries has 25W grown rapidly from just under 20 per cent., to 32 per cent. last year. The new targets announced today reflect this change. Taken as a package, they are demanding and will require the agency to work more effectively if they are to be met.
In particular, the timeliness target has been extended to embrace the three different methods of handling appeals. This replaces the previous target which was confined to written appeals and which did not take into account the more difficult appeals which take longer.
The principal objectives will be to continue to preserve the impartiality and quality of the inspectorate's work while seeking further to improve efficiency.
In detail, the key targets for the agency's work in England for 1996–97 are as follows:
- (a) 80 per cent. of all planning appeals decided by written representations to be determined in 22 weeks, reducing to 18 weeks by 1998–99;
- (b) 80 per cent. of all planning appeals decided by hearings to be determined in 43 weeks, reducing to 24 weeks by 1998–99;
The above targets are compared with previous targets and outturns in the Table below: Planning Inspectorate: targets for England Outturn 1993–94 Outturn 1994–95 Outturn 1995–96 Proposed 1996–97 aims, by 1998–99 Casework targets Determine 80 per cent, of written appeals within 18 weeks achieved, 17 weeks missed, 19 weeks missed, 24 weeks 22 weeks 18 weeks Determine 80 per cent, of hearing appeals within set time not set, 25 weeks not set, 22 weeks not set, 37 weeks 43 weeks 24 weeks Determine 80 per cent, of inquiry appeals within set time not set, 40 weeks not set, 35 weeks not set, 41 weeks 51 weeks 36 weeks Provide an Inspector for Development Plan inquiry within 26 weeks of end of objection period achieved achieved achieved same Deliver 90 per cent, of reports on Development Plans to local authorities by dates agreed in service agreements not set not set not set new target Determine 19,500; 15,500, 14,900 appeals respectively, subject to intake not declining intake declined; no fault miss intake declined; no fault miss intake declined; no fault miss not set Financial targets Unit costs of written planning appeals not to exceed £690 achieved, £683 achieved, £689 achieved, £673 same Recover 90 per cent, of receipts written eight weeks of invoice achieved achieved achieved same Generate a 3 per cent, efficiency improvement in use of running costs compared with previous year achieved achieved achieved same Quality of casework targets The number of justified complaints about the way Inspectors have carried out their duties to be below 1 per cent, of decisions issuedmissed 1.3 per cent. missed 1.1 per cent. missed 1.5 per cent. new target Information and guidance targets Carry out set tasks to improve information about or guidance given to customers achieved by customer survey achieved by customer survey not set new "Plain English" task