The Committee received the Development Management Performance report for January – December 2018. The Committee noted the following key points:
· The number of applications received in 2018 was similar to that received in 2017.
· The number of major applications received was down from 60-70 per annum to the late 50’s. This was mostly due to uncertainty over the adoption of the emerging local plan.
· 521 pre-applications had been dealt with, which reflected that the service was proving to be consistently popular.
· The number of Freedom of Information requests was high and took up a great deal of officer time.
· Approx. 30 complaints were received in the last two years and whilst nobody liked receiving complaints, given the amount of business we dealt with, this level was considered broadly acceptable. Further, the majority of complaints were not upheld or partially upheld.
· The government sets national targets for determination of applications. In terms of DM stats that are reported to government, they remain extremely positive. For majors the team achieved 98%. The government requires Councils to be above 60%. For minors the team achieve 94%. The government requires Councils to be above 65%. For householders and others the team achieved 88%. The government requires Councils to be above 80%.
· The percentage of appeals dismissed in 2018 was 51%. This figure was lower when compared to previous years. We are used to being between 60% and 75% in respect of dismissed appeals. Planning Inspectors appeared to be more generous in allowing appeals and raising the bar as to what should be refused/dismissed. In response, planning officers had received training on what to look out for, and all refusals have been rigorously challenged. Due to the appeal process, it may take time for figures to improve. Positively, the statistics have been much better for the start of 2019 with four appeals so far being allowed out of 15 and 11 being dismissed.
· The Planning Department had undergone two audits by KPMG, one in relation to S106 agreements and the other was in relation to development management and its processes. The audits took a total of two weeks each and the department received an amber/green rating for each, which was considered good.
· When Development Management Performance was last reported on in 2018, there was concern around major appeal decisions as we were on the threshold for acceptability/becoming a standards authority. We were at 10-13.3% when the threshold was 10%. The figures have since improved and for major appeal decisions, (over a two-year rolling period) has dropped to 5.74%.
· With the emerging Local Plan, it was anticipated that more major applications would be coming forward, including the likely submission of one or more strategic sites.
· The Planning Development Manager advised Councillors that there was a great deal to be proud of in the Development Management service and we are in a fairly strong position going forward. The key is to maintaining this position.
The Committee considered the report and requested if it was possible to provide statistics on how successful the pre-application process was in relation to the resultant recommendation made by planning officers. The Planning Development Manager observed that ten years ago there was sometimes a mismatch between the pre-application advice given and the resultant recommendation made by planning officers. This had however greatly improved.
The Committee also noted a frustration amongst Council’s more generally that Planning Inspectors were overturning decisions more readily and that Local Neighbourhood Plans were ignored.
The Committee agreed that bite-sized training on planning matters for committee members was sometimes lacking real-life and local examples. The Planning Development Manager agreed to explore this further for future training sessions.
The Committee commended the Development Management Service for their ongoing good work and for continuing to improve the Service to a very high standard.