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New measures are being introduced by Portsmouth City Council to speed up decisions on planning applications and help get the city’s economy moving.

These will help the council tackle a backlog resulting from more than a year of disruption. This was caused by the coronavirus lockdown earlier this year, which held up the assessment of new applications, and the ongoing Solent nitrates issue, which placed a temporary halt on approving new developments for a large part of last year.

The construction industry is a crucial part of Portsmouth’s economy, with many small businesses dependent on it. The council recognises that planning applications need to be processed on time to enable developments to go ahead, boosting economic activity and creating jobs.

The council has therefore recruited a specialist company, TerraQuest, to help process applications.

To further speed up processes and enable applications to be fast-tracked, the council has also:

  • recruited new experienced planning officers to lead on key projects
  • hired temporary officers to increase the speed applications are being dealt with
  • reviewed the system for determining applications, to allow for quicker decisions while ensuring the planning committee can focus on the most significant and contentious proposals

Cllr Hugh Mason, the council’s Cabinet Member for Planning Policy and City Development, said: “Most councils have seen their planning processes disrupted as a result of coronavirus. During lockdown the Civic Offices were unavailable to display applications for inspection or for staff to carry out assessments, and committee meetings had to be postponed until we could set up safe virtual alternatives. We are now putting new measures in place to ensure we can process applications as quickly as possible.”

Plans to build on sites across the region were delayed last year after Natural England raised concerns about the amount of nitrates entering the Solent. The council introduced a nitrate credit system to solve the problem in the medium term but a permanent solution still needs to be found.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of the Council, said: “It is crucial that the government provides a permanent strategic solution to the nitrates issue. While we appreciate the serious environmental concerns, it is imperative to the recovery of the economy that this issue is resolved and potential development in Portsmouth and the wider Solent region is not restricted.”