Planning applications must be speeded up

Planning applications must be speeded up for small businesses – http://ow.ly/5Elsl

A business group has urged the Government to fast-track the process of planning applications for smaller firms.

Ahead of the National Planning Policy Framework, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has argued that small firms must be able to accelerate their planning applications.

The FSB believes that unless small firms are able to cut through the bureaucracy of the planning system, it will just be yet another barrier to economic growth.

Statistics from the FSB ‘Voice of Small Business’ survey panel showed that more than half of small businesses think that planning applications are overly complex and that two fifths consider the process far too costly.

The FSB is concerned that small businesses are deterred from expanding their premises because of concerns about having to go through a drawn-out, complicated planning application.

Small firms usually tend to submit applications for minor changes, the FSB said, yet are still subject to a long and expensive process.

The FSB survey revealed that small businesses applying for planning permission are more likely to ask for a change of property use (30 per cent), a new build (26 per cent), an extension (24 per cent) or minor improvement (14 per cent).

Only one per cent of applications submitted by small firms are for large developments.

The FSB has welcomed the proposed ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ in the NPPF, which aims to create a planning regime that will encourage growth, but urged the Government to make sure that the presumption promotes a system that is free of unnecessary delay and that does not privilege big business.

Specifically, the FSB is calling on the Government to change the process of planning applications for minor building works so that small firms are encouraged to grow or diversify their businesses.

The business group also wants the policy framework to adopt a robust ‘town centre first’ approach.

John Walker, the FSB’s national chairman, said: “Costly and complicated planning systems aren’t a new problem for small businesses, but these figures show that the application process is still far too costly and complex for them.

“Small firms tend to want to make minor changes that require time consuming and expensive planning applications, when these small alterations can enable them to expand and diversify and so stimulate much needed growth in the economy.

“Providing a fast track for small business planning applications, that make it cheaper and easier, would provide the incentives they need to grow their businesses. The Government is going through huge changes with planning at the moment, so it is vital the small business voice is heard.”

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