The Executive Director presented the report and explained that to increase capacity within the Development Management team to reflect increased workloads and the need to provide an acceptable level of service to those engaged in the planning process. The structure will also respond to the changes put forward in the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill in respect of planning and in particular the need to improve speed and quality of decision making.
In response to questions from Councillor Joyce on the current structure of the Development Management team, the Assistant Director, Central Services advised that the information requested was set out in the structure chart at page 67 of the Agenda.
Councillor Devereux commented that he was pleased to see the report with the proposed additional resource, particularly an Ecologist post and Arboricultural Assistant/Officer.
In response to comments made by Councillor Nash on the level of service expected by residents when submitting an application, the Executive Director explained that each planning application was determined on a case by case basis. If a resident was unhappy with the service received then a corporate complaint form could be completed and submitted to the council.
Following a question from the Chair in relation to 2.5, the Assistant Director Environment and Planning explained that there was the option to agree an extension of time with planning applications but if the application determination date exceeded 6 months and if an extension of time had not been agreed past the 6 months, then the planning fee would need to be repaid. He stated that at present there was too much reliance on extensions of time.
In response to questions from Councillor Morley with regard to recruitment of the proposed additional officers, the Executive Director explained that it would be a challenging process and there were currently a number of vacant posts.
The Chair referred to 4.1 and the income from pre-application, street naming and numbering advice. The Executive Director explained that any charges for those services would be paid by the developer.
Following comments from Councillor Nash, the Assistant Director, Environment and Planning added that a charge was made for pre-application advice but this was a voluntary service and applicants could not be forced to use the pre-application service. The Assistant Director agreed to clarify situations where the pre-application service was not appropriate or utilised, following concerns raised by Councillor Nash about the pre-application service.
Following questions from the Chair on 4.3, the Executive Director explained that the 20% ring fenced funds for planning was included in the overall budget.
The Portfolio for Development, Councillor Blunt provided an overview of the work that
Had been undertaken and highlight the major changes including the move from two area teams (north and south) to three area teams (north, central and south). It was noted that this change was intended to provide greater management support within the department and would enable planning officers to cover a smaller geographical area.
The Chair commented that at the previous Corporate Performance Panel meeting, the Portfolio Holder for Development gave an undertaking that enforcement would improve and there would be a better customer interface. The Chair referred the Panel to 3.2 where it was proposing that the Enforcement Team would also be strengthened through the creation of a new enforcement post and the creation of a new support officer who would focus on providing a better customer interface with the public in terms of updating on the progress of cases. The Chair thanked the Portfolio Holder for Development.
The Chair thanked the Executive Director for presenting the report.
RECOMMENDED: That the Panel supported the recommendations to Cabinet as set out below:
1. Cabinet is recommended to approve the recruitment of the following new posts:
• 1 x Principal Planner
• 6 x Planning Officers
• 1 x System and Performance officer
• 1 x Ecologist
• 1 x Cil Officer
• 1 x Technical Support Team Leader
• 1 x Technical Support Officer
• 1 x Arboricultural assistant/officer
• 1 x Enforcement Officer
• 1 x Enforcement Support Officer
2. That the planning fee income in the budget be increased from £1.1 million to £2 million to more accurately reflect the income received over the past 3 years and the increase in planning fees set out in the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill.