In this blog, part of our series on the Government’s technical consultation on implementation of the planning changes, we discuss proposals to limit response times for statutory consultees.

Prior to making decisions on planning applications, authorities must consult the relevant statutory consultees for their opinions. Statutory consultees are under a duty to respond within 21 days, however, recent performance data indicates that in 5-12% of cases statutory consultees requested and received additional time.

To encourage authorities to reach timely decisions on applications, and minimise potential delays caused by the slow response of statutory consultees, the consultation suggests limiting requests for extensions of time to a maximum of 14 days.

The consultation asks for views on the potential benefits and risks of such a limit, and whether 14 days would be an appropriate maximum (the proposed limit is based on recent performance data which indicates most extension requests are for 7-14 days).

Limiting response times for statutory consultees is part of a wider range of measures being consulted on by the Government to encourage more ‘innovation’ and ‘radical improvement’ in planning services. Whether the changes will achieve these aims in practice remains to be seen. Shortening the timescale for statutory consultee responses will do nothing to assist applications delayed by negotiations over infrastructure provision or affordable housing. It is also unclear how forcing statutory consultees to respond faster will ensure authorities also speed up their own decision-making process.