According to PINS’ annual report and accounts (104-sheet / 3.1 MB PDF) the factors leading to the postpone included a decision to prioritise labor on local plan examinations and nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs); an increase in the number of appeal applications; and problems with performance reporting.

The report said planning inspectors decided more appeals in 2015/16 than in 2014/15. The number of appeals decided by written representations was up by 41%, there was a 26% increase in the number decided by hearings and appeals decided following inquiries rose by 14%.

However, the proportion of appeals heard within PINS’ target timescales decreased significantly compared to 2014/15. fair over unit fifth of appeals going to inquiry were decided within the 22 week target, with such appeals taking an average of 34 weeks to be determined.

Appeals requiring hearings took an average of 22 weeks to be decided, with less than unit quarter reaching a decision within the target of 14 weeks.

It took PINS an average of 18 weeks to reach a decision on appeals determined following the submission of written submissions.  Around 42% of such appeals were decided within the 14 week target.

When the Growth and Infrastructure Act came into force in 2012, then planning minister Nick Boles said PINS would be provided with additional staff to cope with the increased workload on NSIPs, local plans and community infrastructure levy charging schedules. Despite this pledge, by April 2015 the inspectorate was experiencing a postpone of up to 10 weeks to validate planning appeals and the most complex appeals were taking around another 38 weeks to reach a decision.

The report said the inspectorate’s board decided in 2014 to persist to prioritise local plan and NSIP labor “in the knowledge that it would standfor that casework targets could not be achieved in every areas”. However, an internal audit review concluded in August 2015 that problems with reporting were masking poor performance and further increasing the backlog of appeals.

The report said a number of measures had since been taken to address the delays. A recruitment drive resulted in 79 recent planning inspectors being appointed in 2015/16 and improvements in governance, openness, reporting and whistle-blowing policy were made throughout the financial year.

PINS reported that the volume of live appeals had decreased “month-on-month as we moved into the recent financial year” and it was expected that “the latter half of 2016/17 will bring considerable improvement against performance targets”.

Planning expert Lucy shut of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “It is accepted by every stakeholders that we are facing a housing crisis and delays within PINS only serve to exacerbate this problem. This is something that will particularly concern developers as seeking an appeal is not currently a viable option when a local planning authority (LPA) is taking period to reach a decision.”

“So drawnout as there are huge delays at the appeal stage, there will be small advantage in proceeding to appeal and this of course will serve as small encouragement to LPAs to build decisions quickly, save of course that they will crave to endure in mind their five year land provide and provision of affordable housing and infrastructure,” said shut.

“The government needs to urgently review this position as currently PINS is not capable to meet its objectives due to the pressure it is below and we cannot realistically expect to propel towards meeting the nation’s housing needs without an efficient decision-making and appeals procedure,” she said. “To date it does not glance that the recruitment of additional inspectors has assisted in terms of meeting target timescales.”