For many in our Bailiwick community, 2020 has been forgettable and unforgettable in equal measure. We have all had to adapt to great change, with further adjustments likely to follow in the months to come.
All business sectors have experienced new ways of working, and the Development and Planning Authority (“DPA”) is no different.
Successfully delivering a planning service whilst working remotely has no doubt had its challenges, and combined with a new States’ composition following this year’s election, there has been much for the island planners to deal with.
Despite that backdrop, the DPA has produced an interesting infographic (most recently for quarter 2 of 2020) setting out some key statistics. Although slightly historic, since it does not capture activity over the last six months, it is nevertheless informative and likely indicative of settled trends.
We know that by the end of June 2020, the DPA had granted 5,294 permissions since November 2016 (excluding pre-applications, al frescos, curtilage applications, development frameworks and certificates of lawful use), and over that same period there were 161 refusals. Whether those permissions were more routine and uncomplicated is not known, but a permission rate of 97% is indicative of an Island Development Plan which is flexible, and which is broadly working.
It is also noteworthy that by the end of June 2020, there have only been 21 planning appeals since November 2016. In the days of the Rural Area Plan and the Urban Area Plan it is likely that the figure was higher, and again this figure of 21 appeals may be due to the collaborative approach and pre-application emphasis placed by the DPA.
Pre-covid, target times for decisions to be made were generally eight weeks for domestic and other minor applications and 13 weeks for major applications. Back in June this year, 83% of decisions were issued in 13 weeks. A report in the Guernsey Press published in late September has identified that a backlog of planning applications has seen decision times increase to above 16 weeks, and which in the context of this year is hardly surprising. In response to that, the Director of Planning has indicated additional resourcing is being provided, and certain straightforward applications will be determined by a fast-track system quicker than the previous eight weeks.
In 2019, most permissions were granted in the St Peter Port Main Centre, followed next by permissions in the Outside Centres. Predictably, the significant majority of permissions relate to private housing, nearly double those granted for affordable housing. It would be surprising of the 2020 figures were materially different to those trends.
With the welcome news of two vaccines now being available, 2021 is certain to be a different year again, but perhaps with some legacy ways of working from this year. In planning terms, it is likely to be a busy 2021 (due to a very active property market) and which in turn will contribute to economic activity.
Community spirit has been tangible in the Bailiwick in 2020 and no doubt the public-private partnership between the planning service and the private sector will assist in our ambitious recovery plans.