The Government must act quickly and stop changing the planning system, says a North East planning expert in the light of a new report published today.

Joe Ridgeon, director at Hexham-based Hedley Planning Services, says stability is ‘desperately’ needed to prevent more delay and uncertainty in the local planning process.

He also wants to see more fully resourced local authority planning departments, so that the production of local plans and decisions over applications is speeded up.

His comments come in the light of a damning report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which warns MPs that the Government needs to tackle “inherent problems at the heart of the planning system” to have any hope of reaching its ambitious goal of building 300,000 homes a year.

The report claims the Department for Housing “simply does not have the mechanisms in place to achieve the … target” and urges ministers to set out their plans to boost building rates by October.

The number of new homes built has recovered from a dramatic slump following the financial crisis to 222,000 last year, but the 10-year average is still just 177,000.

Joe Ridgeon said: “The constant shifting of the goal posts gives no certainty to planners working for both councils and developers.

“For example, the Government introduced a standard methodology for calculating housing need based on ONS data in September 2018.

“As soon as the new (2016 based) data came out it had the opposite effect of reducing housing need, so the Government had to revert back (to 2014 based data) in February 2019. This resulted in five months of confusion and no progress.”

The planning landscape will continue to evolve in the face of revisions to national policy, he added: “Despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, house building will be a busy sector and we want to encourage more smaller builders to enter the market in 2019. It’s vital that effective and stable planning is in place to facilitate this.”