Agenda item

Q2 Planning, Development and Regeneration Performance

Covering report to follow


JD presented the report, noting the new format due to the new software system, and confirmed that of the 12 performance measures, 5 are red, 2 amber and 5 green. 


JD confirmed that planning fees and land charges remain strong, though a little down on Q1 due to the quarter being exceptionally strong.  Service still has a buoyant level of searches though it is amber due to being just over the 10-day target.  Current management performance is good although minor applications have slipped back into amber, and major applications are at target for the quarter.  The quarter saw 9 appeals, compared to 21 in Q1, of which 7 were allowed and 2 dismissed. 


Looking to the validation of applications, JD reported that there are now 77% of cases validated within 3 days of receipt.  JD noted that enforcement are struggling with the large workload caused by the backlog as a result of lockdown and that indicator will remain low for the rest of this year while the team works through this. 


On recruitment, JD noted that progress has been made with Philip Stanley appointed interim group manager for the whole development management, and that his role has been filled by Ed Arnold.  Recruitment for the assistant team leader role remains the most challenging and an advert will be going back out to market. 


Cllr Timmis noted the enforcement backlog and that many of these were in existence before Covid hit, adding that she did not feel the wait was acceptable given that buildings are going up.  JD responded that 400 cases is the likely level they will hold at any one time and that he appreciated the difficulties.  JD explained that they are looking to put in a budget proposal to extend the role put in for this financial year and that councillors were welcome to raise any particular case with the team to look into further. Cllr Birnie commented that there was a lack of information on how cases are prioritised and that the issue is with buildings being started or altered without permission.  JD advised that a triage system is in place for any new cases and that there are 3 priority levels in place with 1 being the most severe, which is usually as a result of unauthorised work to a listed building. 


Cllr Birnie asked if Members should bring cases to the team’s attention.  JD stated that the team will look at cases where there is local concern.  Cllr Timmis commented that 2 enforcement officers have left this year and that they need to look at incentives to keep people in post.  JD agreed, adding that they have to work within the constraints of the budget. 


Cllr Birnie commented on a particular case regarding an ex-constituent who was visited by an enforcement officer due to a garden shed and that he would assume this was low priority.  JD stated that he was unable to comment without the details on that particular case. 


Cllr Birnie noted the 7 allowed appeals and asked if there were any trends seen in these cases.  JD commented that inspectors may be more lenient on issues around design and overlooking.  JD added that there is also an issue with being unable to demonstrate a 5-year land supply due to having such high housing targets that were set by central government.  JD advised that inspectors are allowing large developments on the green belt due to the local authority being unable to meet the 5-year land supply issue and that this will be kept under review. 


Cllr Birnie asked if the Long Marston land could be considered as part of the land supply even if there are no intentions to build there, given the lack of roads and other infrastructure. Inclusion of this area could well mitigate such inspector’s decisions as the Wilstone appeal, where the number of buildings allowed increased from 15 to 28  JD advised that they are currently reviewing the content of the local plan and looking at more regeneration opportunities, particularly in the Hemel Hempstead area to meet numbers.  On Long Marston and Wilstone, JD noted there are a number of issues due to a lack of services, but that there is also no active landowner or development putting in a viable proposal.  JD added that the land is unconstrained by the green belt but it would be a significant change to the landscape so a proposal would have to show it was deliverable and could meet sustainable development tests.  JD noted that, given the lack of infrastructure, they could be creating a community reliant on private car travel.  Cllr Birnie asked if an advert could go out to the Marston area asking for landowners to come forward with a proposal.  JD confirmed that a further call has gone out and that he would speak to Cllr Anderson about this separately. 


There were no further questions.  The report was noted by Members.


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