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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 04/07/2005
Planning Service Improvement Journey - Setting the Scene



Summary & Purpose
This report is intended to provide a context to the suite of reports that follow on this agenda. They concern the continued improvement of the service and how that might be achieved in the face of a number of significant challenges.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive


APPENDIX B
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

MODERNISING PLANNING: SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
29TH JUNE 2005

ENVIRONMENT AND LEISURE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
4TH JULY 2005

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Title:
PLANNING SERVICE IMPROVEMENT JOURNEY - SETTING THE SCENE

[Wards Affected:All]
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Summary and purpose:

This report is intended to provide a context to the suite of reports that follow on this agenda. They concern the continued improvement of the service and how that might be achieved in the face of a number of significant challenges.

_________________________________________________________________________

Quality of life implications – social, environmental & economic (sustainable development):

E-Government implications:

The ICT systems and their development is a critical component of continuing service delivery. The report makes general reference to recent and imminent ICT developments already in hand.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no direct resource or legal implications arising from this report.

Introduction

1. The Councils’ Planning Services are well into their improvement journey. A number of forces have shaped the direction and pace of change.

2. This started with the Best Value Review of Planning Services in December 2001. This concluded that the services were “fair with promising prospects for improvement”. Important in this assessment was the perceived robustness of the Improvement Plan. Much effort and energy has gone in to implementing that Plan. The current Service Plan includes a statement on its current status.

3. The later Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) concluded that Waverley was “Good”. In its assessment of strength and weaknesses it recognised that the speed of processing planning applications is poor.

4. Waverley does not currently meet the Government’s performance targets BVPI 109 for the “major” and “minor” categories, but does meet the target for “other” applications which comprise the bulk of the workload. As such the Council is identified as a Planning Standards Authority. Addison Associates on behalf of the ODPM recently carried out an evaluation visit and their formal response is currently awaited. Their draft assessment indicated that Waverley was a “red light” authority in that it was considered unlikely to consistently meet the Government’s performance targets by March 2007.

5. Although all the targets are not currently met, the performance rate continues to improve year on year across all categories as evidenced by the Planning Delivery Grant (PDG) received this year by the Council. Throughout the change process staff have remained focussed, enthusiastic and committed to delivering a quality service.

6. The Modernising Planning SIG and the Executive have previously considered reports on progress and proposals for improvement. However the desire for improvement does not just rest with the Executive. The Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee has also positively conducted its own “select committee” review of development control and is understanding of the wider situation and best practice elsewhere.

7. Whilst much of the Council’s attention has been focussed on the development control service, it is easy to overlook the fact that the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 introduced a new planning system in September last year.

8. It not only introduced a new structure but also a new wider approach to the planning function. Planning is intended to:-

deliver sustainable development,

to implement development that is required to meet local community needs,

to be integrated in to community planning processes and

to generally “..provide a good quality service for managing the development of their area: making plans, dealing with development consents and assisting implementation, striving for continuous improvement with regard to matters such as openness, customer service and stakeholder satisfaction.” Planning Policy Statement 1.

9. Waverley is well advanced in laying the foundations of a planning service that meets the Governments objectives expressed in para’s 1-12 inc of PPS1. Sustainable development – early adoption of a keynote policy on sustainable development

Facilitating development – an excellent record on delivering affordable housing in both urban and rural environments

Leading on regeneration – East Street Farnham project

Programme of plan preparation – early submission of local development scheme LDS to Government Office

Using planning as a tool – “enabling development” to remediate contaminated sites

Community involvement – promoting Healthcheck processes, Beacon Council whole Council approach to assisting the rural economy a leading authority on e-planning and partnerships on technical tasks.

Pre-application discussions – the innovative “Development Control Consultative Forum”

Contributing at several levels to the Regional Planning debate and the preparation of the South East Plan.

Working with Surrey authorities to identify prospects for efficiencies and service improvements through procurement.

Working with regular customer groups – the introduction of the Fast Track scheme

Ensuring that design is at the heart of decision making e.g:

o Design awards

o Adopting the Surrey Design guide

o Member and officer training and visits

o Involvement of CABE and Kent Architecture Centre on schemes

10. Waverley has a good record on community involvement, developing partnerships and new means of communicating and providing information. There are proposals to deepen this as the Council moves from a “controlling” authority to a “shaping and influencing” authority. New skills will be required for both Members and officers.

11. However there is still some challenging work ahead on community involvement. Experience so far indicates scepticism of national policy and in particular there is a prevalent view that the necessary mechanisms are not in place to ensure that development brings community benefits or required infrastructure. Until these are in place it will be difficult to effectively persuade local communities to be more involved in positive discussions about development.

12. Officers are pressing at various levels for early Government consideration of the review of planning obligations.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Modernising Planning SIG take note of this report in considering further reports on this agenda.

Background Papers (DoPD)

Best Value Inspection report form the Audit Commission 2001
CAP report 2004
ODPM draft report on Development Control Performance
Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee report on Development Control performance December 2004

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Steve Thwaites Telephone: 01483 523429

E-mail: sthwaites@waverley.gov.uk

Comms/SIGS/05-06/028