PLANNING officers rather than elected councillors now decide nearly 90 per cent of all applications in Worcester.

Figures also show that planners approved 513 out of 553 applications in 2011/12, meaning only 40 applications were turned down, an approval rate of 93 per cent (above the average of 85 per cent).

A total of 484 planning decisions out of 553 applications (87.5 per cent) in 2011/12 were delegated to officers.

About 40 per cent of decisions were determined by councillors on the committee 10 years ago (2000/01) compared with 12.4 per cent in 2011/12.

Between January and March this year Worcester City Council approved 66.7 per cent of planning applications within the 13 weeks, above the national target of 60 per cent.

During 2011/12 63.2 per cent of major applications (12 out of 19 applications) were approved, above the 60 per cent target. The council also approved all minor applications within eight weeks, again above the national 70 per cent target.

Four major applications were approved within the 13-week deadline and two applications took more than 13 weeks – the new radiotherapy unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester and the Cinderella Sports Ground at Bromyard Road, St John’s. Both applications were delayed, planners said, because of section 106 agreements to secure important community benefits.

Paul O’Connor, the development services manager, referring to the 13-week target, said: “It’s more important to get the right development in the right place to make sure major development takes place rather than slavishly adhering to the timetable.

“We have a high rate of approval but we do refuse things if we have legitimate reasons for doing so. It shows there is a very positive attitude to development in the city.”

Of the 11 appeals made against decisions by the planning committee to refuse planning permission, 10 were dismissed and one was allowed.

Figures also show that councillors who are members of the committee in general follow the recommendation of planning officers to reject or approve an application.

They only went against the officers’ recommendation six times out of a total of 553 planning applications during 2011/12.

The figures also suggest that councillors are increasingly less likely to go against planning officers. In 2000/01 the committee overturned 15 recommendations, 15 the following year, 16 in 2002/03, eight in 2003/04 and 17 in 2004/05.