FEWER planning applications are being submitted in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, government data shows. 

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities figures show BCP Council decided on 2,605 planning applications in the year to March – down from 2,977 the year before. 

Of these, 2,068 (79 per cent) were granted, while 537 were refused. 

BCP Council’s local housing needs assessment says 2,670 new affordable homes need to be built per year. 

And Labour said it will build 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament by "bulldozing" restrictive planning rules, encouraging councils to build on brownfield sites and identifying lower quality areas in the green belt for development, termed "grey belt". 

(Image: Daily Echo)

Prime minister Sir Keir Starmer said planning reform is his highest priority as he committed to start work on it “straight away”.  

He added: “We cannot go on with the system as it is. Infrastructure takes years. Housing takes years to build. We’re too slow. We’re too expensive. We’re over budget. 

“We cannot go on like that. We have to take the tough decisions to get the country moving. And we’ll start on that if we’re elected in to serve our country, we’ll start on that straight away.” 

Chancellor Rachel Reeves said the current system is a "barrier to growth", and Labour will "put planning reform at the very centre of our economic and political argument". 

There was a particular focus on housing developments in Labour's manifesto. It said it would immediately update the National Planning Policy Framework "to undo damaging Conservative changes, including restoring mandatory housing targets". 

But across the country, the number of granted planning applications for major residential developments – those which provide at least 10 residential dwellings – has fallen steadily over the last decade. 

Last year, granted applications fell by 12 per cent, slumping to the lowest level in a decade. In Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, 36 were granted last year. 

To boost housing development, Labour said it will support local authorities by funding additional planning officers, and "will not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers to build the houses we need". 

However, it also pledged to ensure local communities continue to shape house building in their area. 

Mark Booth, co-founder of house builder Hayfield, said "tweaking the current system isn’t enough".

He added: "We need to find a solution that incentivises local planning authorities to deliver housing in all areas of the country."