A league table of planning authorities has revealed huge discrepancies in the performance of Westcountry planning authorities.
With the construction sector badly hit during the recession, streamlining the planning process so that developments get under way as soon as possible has been a key priority for the Government.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has now ranked local authorities across the country for the speed and accuracy with which they make decisions.
Minimum targets for planning authorities are that 60%of major applications should be determined within 13 weeks; 65% of minor applications should be determined within eight weeks and 80%of other applications should be determined within eight weeks.
The league table revealed that planners at Plymouth City Council performed best out of authorities in the Westcountry, with 78.4% achieving the targets, while the South Hams was the worst performing authority, achieving just 31.4%.
Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said: "To have a vibrant and growing economy we need a vibrant construction sector. You can't have that without an efficient delivery service.
"That starts and finishes with planning and it's essential that we get the market orientation right on planning applications.
"Planning is top of the Government's priorities now. Any bad performance is not acceptable."
One Plymouth architect, who asked not to be named, said he had had experience with planners across the Westcountry, including at both Plymouth City Council and South Hams District Council.
He said that, while many authorities had made improvements to their planning systems, there were still huge variations, with progress often dependent on which officers case were assigned to.
"We know that construction is one of the biggest industries that can start or stop the economy. I have had very wide ranging experience and it seems to come down to the individual officers," he said.
"In this kind of economic climate, the progress of a planning application can cause a small building contractor to sink or swim. Officers need to be commercially minded and to deal with applications efficiently and quickly."
Planning Minister Nick Boles said: "It's quite right that communities and developers looking to provide homes and jobs are able to see how efficiently applications are processed by their council.
"This list helps people go compare, and see how their council is performing, and allows councils to see where they need to improve to provide a better planning service to their communities."