Planning Delays Slow Business Growth says FSB

Britain’s expanding small companies are being held back by the ongoing failure of the planning system, according to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Its latest Voice of Small Business survey finds that 69% of small businesses have to wait more than the maximum eight weeks allowed by ministers for local authorities to decide on most planning applications. And less than a third of all applications (30%) were decided within the allocated timeframe — despite Government promises of a faster and fairer planning system.

The delays cannot be blamed on complex planning applications says the FSB — one-third of applications were for a change of use of existing business premises and a quarter were for minor improvements and changing signage. Less than a third of applications (30%) related to substantial proposed works, such as the building of new premises.

Key findings of the study include:

  • 13% of members have applied or are currently applying for planning permission for their businesses;
  • Of those receiving final notification, around seven in ten waited more than eight weeks;
  • A change of use, an extension or a new build are the most popular types of planning application;
  • An overly-protracted process and overly-complex rules have been encountered by around half of those applying for planning permission;
  • Around seven in ten FSB members feel property owners should be allowed to make a “change of use” without needing planning permission.

John Walker, FSB national chairman, said:

“Most small firms only want to make minor changes to their business that would enable them to expand and diversify, stimulating much needed growth in the economy.”

“Small businesses are already over-burdened, especially in these difficult times. Providing a fast-track for small business planning applications would make the process cheaper and easier, and would provide the incentive they need to grow their business.”

The Federation of Small Businesses report follows on from findings at the Institute of Directors who said only last week that UK tax is another system that is impeding expansion at a time when it is crucial that British enterprises find business growth in order to improve the economy.

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