Planning delays stunt business growth, says business group

Small businesses in the UK are being held back from potential growth because of failures in the country's 'costly' and 'complex' planning system, says the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

A survey conducted by the FSB found that seven in ten small businesses wait more than eight weeks for a decision on planning applications.

Local authorities are given a maximum of two months to decide on most planning applications. Less than a third of businesses surveyed had their applications processed within this allocated timeframe.

The FSB accused the planning system of failing, despite Government promises to improve the service by making it faster and fairer for small businesses who are struggling to achieve growth in the wake of the recession.

The findings reveal that the planning system is struggling with both simple and more complex planning proposals, with one third of businesses applying for a change in the use of existing premises and a quarter seeking minor improvements such as changing signage.

Less than a third of applications were related to substantial proposed works, such as the building of new premises.

National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), John Walker, said: "It is ridiculous that small firms are still being held back by the costly and complex planning system. 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."

According to the FSB, over half of those applying for planning permission faced complex rules and an overly protracted process, with 70 per cent of members believing that a 'change of use' to a property should be made without the need of planning permission.

John Walker continued: "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."