Adele Hayes, Service Lead – Planning, attended the Performance Panel to provide clarity to the planning system and how performance was recorded.
She highlighted that the Government set the target to determine planning applications which were either 8 weeks or 13 weeks.
Within the Planning Department at Chorley Council, a culture of good performance had been cultivated. There was good communication with applicants and agents. The process of Planning and Development was predicated on the presumption of sustainable development and the starting point was approval. Frequently extra time was needed to secure added value, this could include alterations to the designs or waiting for the response of technical consultants.
Reasons varied as to why some applications took longer, time extensions allowed positive and proactive decision to take place. Time extensions were never used to prolong the process.
The applicant is the customer, and within the process there were others that fed into the process with technical matters. Third parties such as residents were only notified to make comments.
Response times from external consultants varied, there was a good working relationship with the County Council. The Council had seen the volume of applications increase substantially over the previous 18 months.
Non-determined items were not counted in the figures of determined figures. Over the 18 months of the pandemic, three appeals were made against non-determination. Two of which were in safeguarded sites with applicants not agreeing to an extension of time. The third appeal was against non-determination of a certificate of lawfulness.
There were two systems parallel that provided figures, Performance Management and Outside the Scope. Figures were not always 100% but was the goal.
Applications were categorised as either minor or major. Major applications were not always controversial, the erection of a garden shed would be considered a major application.
Extensions were provided for a variety of reasons included, but not limited to the application going to Committee, while awaiting technical responses, amendments sought, and if the applicant wished to change part of the application.
The time limit does not start until the application had been submitted and accepted. It was not uncommon for miscommunication between agent and applicant regarding the timing of the submission of applications. Inadequate applications would need to be resubmitted to be accepted, and although this may take a significant amount of time, the clock wouldn’t start until the application was accepted.
It was not the place for Planning Departments to liaise with residents as the applicant was the customer. Advice could be provided on the application while it was pending. For any enquiries relating to any application, contact the assigned case officer directly. Any issue or delay in communication could be raised to Adele.
Adele stated that she was happy to meet with residents to talk about any sites that they held concerns with. It was understood that the process was long, stressful and anxiety inducing but due process was required. The five-year housing supply needed to be resolved, and the overarching principal of development proposals and planning applications cannot just be refused outright.
The Planning department had no significant issues with sickness over the previous 18 months, but there was a high caseload compared to other authorities. There was a vacancy in the department, and there had been difficulties with recruitment and to prepare an attractive package against the private sector.
There was no update to provide from the appeals from August in relation to safeguarded land. Consideration was still underway, decisions were not expected until the completion of the planning inquiry in February 2022.
Members noted the update and thanked Adele for attending.