Planning deadlines missed by Natural England because of staffing problems soars by a third

26 January 2024

The number of planning deadlines missed by Natural England because of staffing and resourcing issues has risen by almost a third in a year, from 1475 to 1952, and is more than double the level in 2020/21 which was 779.

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In 2013/14 only 47 deadlines were missed for this reason.

This means that 11% of total applications are delayed because of a lack of resourcing, up from 8.3% last year and only 0.3% in 2013/14.

The rapid escalation in delays comes as droves of experienced staff are leaving Natural England because of low morale, high workloads and poor pay, as set out in Prospect’s “The State of Natural England” report.

Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect, said:

“These figures show the escalating damage that chronic pay and staffing problems at Natural England are wreaking on its ability to fulfil its remit.

“The Government has previously claimed that Natural England is a block on planning applications, but it is absolutely clear that these delays are predominantly the result of insufficient staffing, particularly at senior level – and it’s rapidly getting worse.

“We are rightly told that getting Britain building again is critical to growing the economy, but that requires properly funding regulators so that they can meet their obligations. If the Government wants to speed up the planning process, as well as protect our biodiversity and natural environment, then fixing the broken pay system at Natural England is critical.”