HOUNSLOW Council could lose its power to determine planning applications for failing to decide on major projects in a suitable amount of time - the Chronicle learned today (Friday).
According to a story by a specialist planning magazine; the borough's entire planning department faces being placed in special measures by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
This would allow developers to get round local policies and frameworks and apply directly to the independent body the Planning Inspectorate - which would then decide whether to grant permission.
Figures provided with the story reveal Hounslow is one of seven local authorities under threat of intervention, alongside Horsham, Daventry, Halton, Fylde, Cherwell and Enfield. Of the 83 major applications applied for between July 2011 and December 2012, Hounslow's officers and councillors only managed to decide 26.5% within the regulation 13 week period. The requirement is 30 per cent.
The council now has six months to improve its rating if it hopes to avoid the special measures penalty being imposed.
A spokesman for Hounslow said it was 'confident' it would avoid such a fate as its performance for the first six months of this year had seen a very high percentage of major applications determined.
Major applications would include projects for new housing estates, as well as upcoming schemes such as those to regenerate Hounslow and Brentford town centres, as well as Brentford Football Club's recently submitted bid for a new 20,000 seater stadium.
The story appeared on the website of the magazine Planning and in response a senior member of the council's team of officers has written to its editor to complain.
In his letter Brendon Walsh, director of regeneration, economic development and environment, calls himself Hacked Off From Hounslow and states: "I am seriously hacked off to see yet another misleading report about the performance of our planning team."
Cllr Steve Curran, Hounslow’s cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, told the Chronicle: "The Planning magazine article is misleading as it is based on last year’s performance figures for determining major schemes, but the position has now totally changed, based on improved performance in 2013.
"We are confident that we will not be subject to special measures because over the last six months, we have seen a sustained increase in the number of major planning applications determined within 13 weeks, making decisions on 75 per cent of the applications received. Where possible, we encourage the use of Planning Performance Agreements with major developers – when timetables are agreed in advance – and this also helps to meet the required deadlines."