Planning authorities urged to secure funding to ease backlogs

Local planning authorities throughout England are being urged to apply for funding from a multi-million pound Government scheme aimed at tackling skills gaps and backlogs.

The Planning Skills Delivery Fund (PSDF), which is part of the Government’s Capacity and Capability Programme, is providing £24 million over two years to local authorities to help with the implementation of the proposed reforms in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

In the first year of the fund, which provides an opportunity for local planning authorities to apply for funding up to £100,000, proposals are being invited to address either backlog funding or skills funding, or both. The deadline for these applications is 11 September 2023 via an online form.

The backlog funding element is only available to local planning authorities (LPAs) who are decision-makers on planning applications, whilst the skills funding is available for all local authorities involved in plan-making and decision-making to apply for, which includes upper tier authorities such as county councils. Only applicable in England, applications will be considered against an evidence of need, outputs and outcomes of the proposal, costs and value for money, and deliverability.

​It is understood that for both types of funding, the Government expects to issue grants of up to £100,000 per local authority to be used for initiatives which are over and above work that the authority already intends on undertaking. Where more than one local authority is submitting a joint application, the total funding available will be capped at £100,000 per local authority – meaning a local authority submitting an application on behalf of three local authorities can apply for up to £300,000.

Peter Lamb, director, head of planning at Savills Wimborne, says “As has been well documented, the number of planning applications under consideration by LPAs has created a backlog, largely down to an imbalance between volume and complexity of applications and the resources in local planning authorities which goes beyond just planning officers to the likes of design, highways and legal. Whilst understandable, this has led to a degree of uncertainty among developers and the wider community in terms of delivering those developments that are currently stuck in the pipeline.

“The grants available will provide some much-needed resource to local authorities and LPAs that are struggling with either a backlog or a perceived skills gap which, ahead of the introduction of proposed planning reforms, is very timely.

“With the number of planning applications only likely to increase with a heightened focus on housing delivery, this grant could be well worth some serious consideration for those authorities that are in need of some help.”

The Capacity and Capability Programme aims to provide the direct support that is needed, getting planners into local government now, deliver upskilling opportunities for existing planners, and further develop the future pipeline into the profession.

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