Wiltshire saw a drop in planning application during lockdown

Fewer developers and homeowners sought planning permission in Wiltshire during lockdown, as applications fell by more than 10 per cent compared to a year ago.

The Home Builders Federation said uncertainty whipped up by the coronavirus pandemic mixed with strict lockdown measures led to an inevitable fall in applications nationally.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows Wiltshire Council received 1,127 applications for planning permission between April and June.

That was the lowest number for the quarter since comparable records began in 1996, and a 17 per cent decrease from the same period last year.

In the first three months of 2020, the council received 1260 applications.

The figures may include housing, office and retail developments as well as extensions or alterations to existing homes.

Across England as a whole, local authorities received 88,000 planning applications between April and June – down by almost a quarter from 2019.

Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation, said the national lockdown period had been tough for developers.

“It was inevitable that applications would drop, not least because a lot of builders were forced to furlough staff, but also because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic,” he added.

“For several years investment by builders in their workforce and future sites has been running at record levels.

“The government remains committed to increasing supply still further and demand is strong, evidenced by the very strong recovery of the new homes market in recent months.”

Mr Whitaker said councils’ commitment to supplying land and granting permissions quickly will be key to the industry’s post-pandemic recovery.

Wiltshire Council made decisions on 1,092 applications between April and June, of which 1,013 were granted and 79 refused.

It gave the green light to 87 applications for minor housing developments – those with between one and nine homes – and five major developments, comprising anything from 10 to 200 or more new dwellings.

David Renard, planning spokesman for the Local Government Association, said councils have kept the planning process on track throughout the crisis – including introducing virtual committee meetings – but warned the loss of planning application fees will have had an impact on revenue in some areas.

Currently fees, aimed at meeting the costs incurred by local authorities when making decisions, are set nationally.

“The Spending Review should give councils the ability to set planning fees locally, with taxpayers currently subsidising nearly £180m a year to cover funding shortfalls,” Mr Renard added.

“The fees should also help to cover the cost of wider planning functions to ensure that these can continue to support the decision and plan-making process.”

An MHCLG spokesman said planning decisions have been made quickly despite the pandemic.

He added: “We’re determined to build more homes quicker which is why we are overhauling our outdated planning system and providing record investment in housebuilding.

“This includes £12.2bn investment in affordable housing, giving £450m to help smaller developers, and allocating £360m to build more homes on brownfield land.”

Salisbury Journal | News