THE number of planning applications submitted in Harrow has plummeted in the last year due to the effects of the credit crunch.

In May last year, the Strategic Planning Committee dealt with 12 major applications, but at it last meeting this month, just one application was looked at.

The Development Management Committee, which deals with smaller applications, has also seen a dramatic drop in its work load during the last 12 months.

This has led officers to recommend the two bodies be merged into one committee.

A report prepared by council officers states: “There has been a significant reduction in planning applications received by the council as a result of the slowdown in the economy.

“This has resulted in a fall in numbers of major applications.”

Councillor Marilyn Ashton, in charge of planning, told the Harrow Times the applications were falling due to the recession and this was also hitting the local authorities' coffers.

The council offers a fee-based service to help residents submit acceptable planning applications, but the fall in applicants has reduced the amount of money collected.

The proposal to merge the committees will save the council money, but will have to be monitored to make sure meetings do not last too long.

Strategic Planning Committee meetings were contentious affairs last year as several high profile applications, especially in Harrow town centre, were considered by councillors.

However, a number of large developments have faltered due to the effects of the credit crunch and fresh applications are not forthcoming.

The proposals to merge the committees also includes a suggestion large applications can be considered at a special convened meeting if there is considerable interest or it is a complex proposal.

The merger plans will be discussed by councillors next week before final approval is sought from the cabinet.