Following a very deep dip at the end of March and into April for application numbers generally across England and Wales, we have now seen a small increase in applications submitted, particularly since the re-opening of construction sites, which takes the total figure above the 40,000 mark again. Whilst there is a long way to go before we recover fully, this shows positive signs that the market will continue to grow and that confidence will return longer term.
As far as regional impact for May this year, save for the West Midlands and Wales, all areas have seen much less of a drop from May last year to May this year than they saw in equivalent April figures. For example, the East of England saw a 20% reduction in applications from April ‘19 to April ‘20, whereas May 2020 saw only an 11% drop from the same time last year. Likewise, the South East saw a 20% drop from April ‘19 to ‘April 20, whereas in May this was 14% drop from May last year. Across the board there seems to be a significant gain over the last few weeks in the number of applications submitted.
However, all may not be as rosy as it seems, with outline applications dropping further than last month to a 21% reduction from May last year (10% reduction in the April 2019/2020 equivalent). Householder and associated consents appear to be doing somewhat better, only 19% less than the same time last year, a small gain of 2% from April. The most significant change is for applications for consent to trees in conservation areas and those subject to Tree Preservation Orders which have seen a rise of 31% in May 2020 compared to 2019 with most of the applications submitted in London and the South East region. Given that this type of application is often seasonal as we come into early summer and works to trees become more prevalent, the increase in submissions tends to reflect the fact that numbers in March and April were much lower than last year and may simply represent a delay to those cases which were already in the pipeline in the last couple of months but which applicants held back from submitting due to the inability to instruct the appropriate professionals to undertake any tree works necessary.
For the busiest local planning authorities in the country, there appears to have been a surge of applications last month, with the likes of Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council in the North West seeing an increase of 88% in submitted planning applications between May last year and this year. Redditch Borough Council (West Midlands) and Maldon District Council (East of England) were next in line with 46% and 43% respectively on an increase in submitted applications between May 2019 and the same time this year.
Generally, the figures appear to be giving a positive outlook to the long term future of planning and development across the country, albeit at a somewhat slow progress.