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27 June 2012

Planning delays ruin business growth

Reference number: PR/2012/23

FSB News Release
PR 2012 23
Issue date: Wednesday 27 June 2012

Planning delays ruin business growth

Britain''s best performing small companies are being held back from growing as quickly as they could by the ongoing failure of the planning system to allow them to grow.

Despite Government promises of a faster and fairer planning system, a ‘Voice of Small Businesses'' survey from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reveals seven in 10 (69%) small businesses have to wait more than the maximum eight weeks allowed by ministers for local authorities to decide on most planning applications. Less than a third of all applications (30%) were decided within the allocated timeframe.

The poor performance of local planning authorities cannot be blamed on the complexity of the applications from small businesses as one-third of applications were for a change of use of existing business premises and a quarter were for minor improvements and changing signage.

Less than a third of applications (30%) related to substantial proposed works – such as the building of new premises.

The findings reveal the planning system is still failing despite repeated promises by successive government ministers of a faster, fairer planning system and is proving a serious burden on small businesses trying to grow despite the ongoing recession.

John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, 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. 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."

Key findings of the study include:


• 13 per cent of members have applied or are currently applying for planning permission for their businesses
• Of those receiving final notification, around seven in ten waited more than eight weeks
• A change of use, an extension or a new build are the most popular types of planning application
• An overly protracted process and overly complex rules and processes have been encountered by around half of those applying for planning permission
• Around seven in 10 members feel property owners should be allowed to make a ‘change of use'' without needing planning permission


1. The FSB is the UK''s leading business organisation with around 200,000 members. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the UK''s Real-Life Entrepreneurs who run their own business. More information is available at

2. The survey is based on 3,063 responses from the April ‘Voice of Small Business'' Panel Survey of FSB members which took place between 9 and 23 April 2012 . For full results, go to  

3. This release is for England only.

4. To view the report, The missing links – revitalising our rural economy, go to This publication is England only.


Pierre Williams 020 7592 81228 / 07917 628 998
Prue Watson: 020 7592 8121 / 07825 125 695 
Sara Crane: 020 7592 8113 / 07595 067068

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