Agenda item

Planning Service Update


Considered – A presentation from Trevor Watson, Assistant Director, Planning and Martin Grainger, Head of Development Management.


Some of the key points raised in the presentation are as summarised below:


·       Since the formation of the new authority in April, 1200 to 1400 decisions have been made on planning applications across North Yorkshire.


·       The system put in place from 1st April was to be safe and legal, with officers keen to monitor and understand that before making changes to that system.


·       The remits of the current Strategic Planning Committee and the Area Planning Committees were set out.


·       Officers are looking at this and keeping the performance of the service under review, and are keen to understand specific examples.


·       It was noted that there is a different approach to site visits currently and a consistent approach is needed.


·       The timing allocated to public speakers was adopted from the previous County Council. This will form part of the service review.


·       There needs to be consistency of notification of applications received and decisions made for affected members.


·       The report and presentation formats are slightly different across the former district and borough council areas.


·       A Planning Enforcement Management Plan is being developed to set out how North Yorkshire Council will ensure decisions are carried out as agreed.


·       A number of legacy areas have had no dedicated enforcement resource in place, so it has been a priority to make the best use of the enforcement staff in post across the county. 


·       The planning service continue to collate, monitor and evaluate information on the committee and delegated decisions made, whilst continuing to work with Planning Chairs and Vice-Chairs to be able to make recommendations to develop the service at the appropriate point.


·       It was noted that the number of officer delegated decisions has increased for most areas in the county. The right balance is needed to make sure the Area Planning Committees consider the right applications.


·       It was reiterated that the planning team are approaching things with an open mind before putting forward recommendations after a suitable period of review.


Following this, questions and comments raised by the committee included:


·       There are differences in the pre-application provision across the county, where some legacy authorities do offer one and others do not. Officers felt pre-apps help improve the quality of the applications coming in and are meaningful, so are a useful tool.


·       Without enforcement, the planning system does not work and a quality enforcement service is required as part of the new council. Prioritising the current casework from the legacy councils and the legal oversight needed is underway now, with a plan to follow for the future service by the end of the financial year. The need for the public to see enforcement action carried out is key to act as a deterrent.


·       Several committee members were keen to see the reinstatement of the ability to ask questions to developers during committee meetings. This would be considered as part of any service review.



·       The involvement of elected members in the decision making process for planning applications was emphasised as an important consideration.


·       The need for consistent decisions across the county using the same approach was felt to be required.


·       The need for councillors to call in planning applications submitted where individual members have concerns was emphasised.


·       The impact of parliamentary constituency boundary changes on the current Planning Committee areas was discussed.


·       A query was raised about the investigation of complaints on planning officers and whether these are carried out independently. In response, the corporate complaints process was outlined.


In summing up the discussions on the item, the Chair gave his personal thoughts, including that:


·       The weekly application updates received by elected members are useful.


·       The three week limit for councillors to call-in application needs extending, to take account of monthly parish council meetings.


·       The 500 homes threshold for the Strategic/Area Planning Committee needs to be re-examined.


·       Planning committees should routinely hear feedback from appeal decisions by the Planning Inspectorate, to better understand and learn from them.



Resolved – That the report be noted.

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