One in five firms struggles to find premises

The planning system in England is more "complex, costly and difficult" for business than it was five years ago, according to a new report from the British Chambers of Commerce.

The BCC report says that five years after the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - which was designed to make the system less complex and more accessible - UK businesses are experiencing delays and barriers when it comes to finding suitable premises.

Its survey of over 900 businesses across the country has revealed that one in five firms is struggling to find appropriate business premises or land. The report concludes that the Government's focus on new homes is leading to increased pressure on the availability of employment land and premises.

The report is urging the Government to review the NPPF to ensure that the needs of business are on an equal footing with other stakeholders.

Key recommendations include:

  • Employment land should be given equal priority to housing, so that people can access jobs and businesses have the space they need to grow and compete;
  • Where shops and offices have been converted to homes, councils should ensure there is an alternative supply of quality commercial office space available elsewhere;
  • Where there is high demand for new housing and jobs, there should be intelligent use of the green belt to ensure local communities benefit from the delivery of new homes and infrastructure.

Jane Gratton, BCC head of business environment, said: "Access to affordable employment land and premises is essential for business innovation, expansion and long-term competitiveness. Too many firms are now unable to find the land and premises they need. We risk creating big problems for the future if we don't get the right balance of jobs and homes.

"Firms still face too many barriers, costs and delays as they negotiate the planning system. We need to find a way to make it work better, to provide the strategic certainty for businesses to make their own investment decisions and the freedom and flexibility they need to innovate, grow and compete globally."

The BCC is calling on the Government to prioritise planning for jobs as well as homes. Investing in modern infrastructure "will give people better access to employment opportunities," added Gratton. "It will help businesses access a skilled workforce and provide the platform to compete globally. The planning system must be looked into as part of plans to make the UK Brexit-ready."

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