Slow council planners must 'move and improve'

Thierry Henry's ambitious plans for a modern mansion got swift approval from Camden council, but record numbers of Londoners wanting to upgrade their homes are being thwarted by slow council planners
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Thierry Henry
© Rex Features
Footballer Thierry Henry's ambitious plans for a modern mansion got swift approval from "generous" Camden council
Record numbers of Londoners want to upgrade their homes rather than move on — but are being thwarted by slow council planners, a new report shows.

Figures out today reveal a postcode lottery when it comes to home improvements — some councils approve more than 90 per cent of upgrade applications while others throw out almost 40 per cent. The Government study also shows huge variety in the time councils take to decide applications.

'Recent planning bids by Benedict Cumberbatch and Thierry Henry were both approved in Camden’s Hampstead patch'

Waltham Forest, Harrow and Merton councils emerged as the toughest in London, each throwing out around one in three applications.

But Barnet and Wandsworth councils are far more generous, approving 91 per cent of applications, while Bexley, Camden and Southwark all have “pass rates” of almost 90 per cent.

These include actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent bid to convert two flats into a single house, and footballer Thierry Henry’s ambitious plan to build a modern mansion, both in Camden’s Hampstead patch. In terms of efficiency in deciding applications, the best-performing councils are Hillingdon, Ealing, Newham, Bexley, Greenwich and Waltham Forest.

All decide around nine out of 10 applications within the Government’s target of eight weeks. But Lambeth council only manages 46 per cent, and Barnet Council is barely better at 45 per cent. Tower Hamlets manages just 51 per cent. A spokeswoman for London Councils blamed budget cuts plus record numbers of applications for the delays.

And a spokesman for the Royal Town Planning Institute suggested areas with low “pass rates” might simply have a higher concentration of conservation areas and listed buildings where planning rules are tighter.

He also pointed out that some wealthier areas might have higher pass rates simply because residents can hire architects and planning consultants to help them draw up high quality schemes.

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