How long can a planning application take?

With Local Authorities having to slash as much as 58% from their planning budget, local planning authorities are facing under staffed departments, low resources and increased workloads. This has inevitably led to some planning departments taking much longer to determine planning applications.

The length of time a Local Planning Authority (LPA) has to determine a planning application depends on what type of planning application is being sought. Most applications should be determined within 8 weeks and major applications are allowed 13 weeks.

The above are only target dates in which LPAs should have determined the application. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or any other legalisation does not make allowance to enable the applicant or agent to force a planning department to determine an application.

If the LPA fail to determine the application within the time period allocated, there are two options open to the applicant;

  • Appeal to the Secretary of State for the failure of the LPA to determine the application within the set time period, this is known as a non-determination appeal,
  • or agree a determination time extension with the LPA.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, and the LPA having good reason for missing the determination date, allowing the LPA more time to determine the application can be  expedient and cost effective rather than taking the non-determination route to appeal.

This can work the other way –  if the applicant requests a determination extension due to outstanding issues such as the requirement of additional reports (i.e. phase 1 habitat surveys, flood risk assessment etc) this can be requested in writing to the LPA. However the LPA are not obliged to agree to an extension and may choose to refuse the application.

If an extension in the determination date is agreed by either the LPA or applicant, the Town and Country Planning Act requires that any extension of time must be agreed between either party in writing, otherwise there are no limitations in doing so.

There is no set time when an extension in time can be sought. While it is good practise to agree an extension of time prior to the expiry of the determination date, there is no regulation in the Town and Country Planning Act to suggest an extension of time cannot be agreed retrospectively. Section 78(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act states “such extended period as may at any time be agreed upon in writing between the applicant and authority”.

There is no limit to the length or number of times extensions that can be agreed in this way, however it could become futile to keep doing this if the end goal is not being reached.  It is worth noting the applicant cannot lodge an appeal against non-determination during any agreed extended period, even if the original determination date has lapsed.

If the determination date has lapsed and an extension period has not been agreed, applicants under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State for non-determination. There are stringent time limits in which the appeal has to be lodged.

If you are faced with a delayed application please feel free to contact us to discuss an appropriate strategy –