Agenda item

Q4 Planning, Development and Regeneration Quarterly reports


SRowberry presented the update, noting that the proportion of planning applications determined within the target period is 87% against a target of 70% and improved from 80% in Q3. On enforcement site visits 79% of priority site visits have taken place against a target of 100% due to the number of enforcement issues the team has had to deal with and a reduced team. In the last quarter, 6 enforcement notices were served, 1 breach of condition notice and 1 attempt to stop measures, as well as 6 appeals against enforcement notices, compared to 3 enforcement notices in the whole of the previous financial year.


In response to a previous question from Cllr Birnie regarding initial visits and not completion, PStanley advised that they are currently visiting 79% of enforcement cases in time as a result of choosing what enforcement to focus on, either to visit new sites quickly or deal with existing cases. There was no permanent Head of Enforcement for around 15 months, resulting in a buildup of formal enforcement cases that had to be dealt with and therefore serving enforcement notices has been prioritised over the last quarter. Enforcement notices can then appeal, putting additional pressure on resources. The team was down one enforcement officer during the quarter and a new officer has now been recruited. A triage system has been introduced where the principle planning enforcement officer will look at new cases coming in and assess which are a priority with lower priority cases held in abeyance until the new enforcement officer has joined.


Looking at KPIs, PStanley noted that the KPI is for first site visits, and whilst this should be measured, members of the public also want to know if the matter has been resolved. PStanley advised on the difficulties of defining the resolution of an enforcement case given how they vary and that it could be unfair to measure the complete closure of cases when there could be other aspects of resolution that could be incorporated into that KPI.


The Chair asked what is reported back to the Development Planning Committee, noting that the report could be shared with this Committee.


Cllr Birnie commented that interim reports on first site visits would be helpful for both the person that has made the complaint and also the member for that area. Cllr Birnie agreed that enforcement can be complex, though there are a number of valid reasons to close an enforcement case.


SRowberry advised that the annual planning enforcement report will be brought to the next meeting. This report will be more detailed and it was suggested that a further discussion take place once members have seen this. Cllr Birnie asked that the comments be considered whilst the report is being produced.


Cllr Timmis commented that planning enforcement has not delivered as it should to residents over the past year. Cllr Timmis acknowledged the efforts taking place and queried the reference to a temporary resource, stating that this is not sufficient to ensure the department can cover up to 400 outstanding cases. Cllr Timmis advised that dropping enforcement cases sends a poor message to others who may exploit this or those who have worked through planning applications. SRowberry advised that he is working on how to address issues in the longer term.


Cllr Birnie reminded officers that if they intend to respond to a member on an issue outside of the meeting then this should be sent to the whole Committee.


Cllr Gale queried the number of enforcement actions dropped by the council due to a lack of resources. JDoe advised that enforcement action is not compulsory and that the council would not drop a serious case due to a lack of resources. PStanley advised that further information on this will come out in the more detailed report where it will show when no further action was necessary, where a breach was resolved or it was considered not expedient to take action.


PStanley provided the Committee with an overview of SAC, advising that the Chiltern Beechwoods is a special area of conservation ("SAC"). There is a large amount of recreational pressure on this area and the high number of visitors to the space is degrading the area, so a pause on development has been implemented whilst a mitigation strategy is developed. The mitigation strategy has now been introduced and allows the council to grant planning permission, subject to all other planning considerations being acceptable, provided the developers pay a contribution to onsite measures and suitable alternative natural green spaces ("SANG"). Within 500 metres of Ashridge there is an exclusion with no development currently permitted and the current SANGs of Bunkers Park and Chipperfield Common don't encompass the whole of the borough. This means that all developments above 10 units or more, unless they are in the catchment area of a SANG, will need to make their own provision. Officers have worked over the last 12-15 months to introduce the mitigation strategy and also the increased processing resulting from this.


Cllr Birnie asked if the development isn't near to a SANG then it doesn't have to contribute, stating that his understanding was that this was borough wide. PStanley confirmed that it is borough wide, though you can only contribute to a SANG if you are within a 5km catchment area. If a development falls outside of this catchment area, they have to negotiate with another landowner and make a contribution to that landowner. Cllr Birnie asked how DBC enforce this. PStanley advised that any other SANG would need to go under a thorough check with Natural England.


Cllr Birnie commented that they could potentially have more green space within developments as developers have to create their own SANGs in order to satisfy planning. JDoe confirmed this as some developers will need to provide their own SANG. A paper will go through the strategic leadership team in the coming weeks and members will receive a paper with further analysis.


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