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LONDON-The Confederation of British Industry has attacked the UK’s ‘slow and uncertain’ planning system, which it says is damaging productivity and thwarting economic growth. The government this week announced an overhaul of the planning system for major infrastructure projects but the CBI wants to see reform of the system for all applications.

In England alone businesses make 3,000 planning applications a week but Government figures show delays cost business around £600 million ($850 million) per annum. a year. Under government guidelines all applications should receive a decision within eight weeks, but the CBI says more than half of all commercial applications take longer than this and for major decisions three quarters of all applications fail to meet the target timescale.

CBI Deputy Director-General, John Cridland, said: ‘The government has just announced a ‘fast track’ route for dealing with projects of national importance but at a day-to-day level businesses big and small also need the right planning decisions to be made, and for them to be made quickly and openly. Too often the system is acting as a brake on productivity.’

The CBI is asking for Separate targets for dealing with household and commercial planning applications, with commercial applications taking priority. It also wants more minor applications exempted from planning controls entirely. And to speed up the system it suggests that part of the income from planning application fees should be ring-fenced to fund a recruitment drive to hire more and better quality local planners.

Cridland said: ‘Poor decision making and delay add to costs and undermine the viability of projects. In 2000/01 30 per cent of all the commercial planning applications refused by local authorities were overturned on appeal. Wasted time and resources would be saved by better decision making in the first place.’

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