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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 05/09/2006

Summary & Purpose
This report explains the current workload pressures on the planning service and seeks support from the Executive to recommend to Council that additional income from planning fees be utilised to manage these pressures. The report is essentially focused on the current situation and proposes short-term fixes following discussions with the Portfolio Holders for Resources and for Planning and Major Projects.

A fuller report examining the longer-term service issues and resources will be reported to the October meeting.




[Wards Affected: All]
Summary and purpose:

This report explains the current workload pressures on the planning service and seeks support from the Executive to recommend to Council that additional income from planning fees be utilised to manage these pressures. The report is essentially focused on the current situation and proposes short-term fixes following discussions with the Portfolio Holders for Resources and for Planning and Major Projects.

A fuller report examining the longer-term service issues and resources will be reported to the October meeting.
Quality of life implications – social, environmental & economic (sustainable development):

The planning service is at the heart of protecting and enhancing the quality of life within the Borough. It is recognised as a high priority within the Corporate Plan in delivering wider community benefits. It is important that the Service continues to perform well even in the face of unprecedented work pressures.

E-Government implications:

There are no direct ICT implications arising from this report. ICT will continue to be a key delivery tool for the service.

Resource and legal implications:

The resource implications are explained in the body of the report.

There may be legal implications if the service begins to fail in meeting reasonable expectations of its customers. For example the Ombudsman has already expressed a growing concern about the length of time the Council is taking to respond to complaints. If the situation is not resolved then there will be a risk of maladministration occurring with damaging implications for the service.



1. This report has been prepared in the context that

One of the Council’s key objectives in its Corporate Plan is the further enhancement of Planning Services to deliver community objectives
Workloads on the Planning Service are increasing and remain at unsustainable levels
There is a 45,000 savings requirement from the Planning Budget

2. In putting this report together the most authoritative and up-to-date sources of data that could be obtained have been used i.e. Cipfa 2005/06 Estimates, Audit Commission Best Value data and Surrey Planning Collaboration Group benchmarking study. A comparator group of shire district authorities in the South East has been used based on those authorities that process similar numbers of planning applications i.e. between around 2,000 to 3,000 applications per year.

3. The report focuses on Development Control services only, where the current service is under stress. The Policy Team is currently working at full capacity to meet the LDS but this work is planned rather than reactive.

Cost of the Service

4. The following chart compares the net cost (excluding capital charges) of the development control service between Waverley and other similar districts. Gross costs of DC alone were not available.

Fig 1
Source: Cipfa 2005/06 Planning & Development Statistics – LPAs in the South East processing 2,000 – 3,000 planning applications per year.

5. The Expenditure information shown in Fig 1 and 2 demonstrate the relatively low costs and expenditure on development control services in relation to authorities processing similar numbers of applications. This supports the Audit Commissions conclusions in its letter earlier this year.

6. The Annual Audit and Inspection Letter from the Audit Commission makes the following comments
7. Whilst the table shows the most recent and available comparative data, members will be aware that by investing PDG into the service the net expenditure on development control for the current financial year is 1.5 million. It is understood that other planning authorities have similarly invested in their services and it is anticipated that this will be demonstrated in future comparable data.

Fig 2
Source: Cipfa 2005/06 Planning & Development Statistics – LPAs in the South East processing 2,000 – 3,000 planning applications per year.

Income and Workload

8. The challenge in managing the Development Control service remains the ability to react to the development industry. The barometer for this is the planning application workload although work on planning applications accounts for between 60-70% of an officer’s time.

Fig 3

9. The number of registered planning applications has increased by 17.5% over last year’s numbers for the period January to June. This trend has continued into July and August. This trend was not predicted and indeed based on the trend in October and November 2005 when the budget was prepared a reduction in the workload appeared likely and consequently a target cost saving of 45,000 was set in the budget against the service. The department has received 241 more applications in the same period this year. In addition to this increase there are likely to be four significant development projects to be managed at the same time over the coming months that will have a significant call on resources. These are Cranleigh Brick and Tile Appeal, East Street Regeneration Scheme, the Godalming Key Site and the Dunsfold New Settlement application. It is clear from the experience of the Cranleigh Brick and Tile planning application that significant additional resources are likely to be required to manage these projects effectively without detriment to service priorities.

10. When the Best Value and ODPM inspection of Standard Authorities was carried out in 2005 they concluded that the workload at that time was unsustainable at 176 cases per officer. The current caseload has risen to 190 cases per officer and whilst performance against determination targets has been maintained it has been at the cost of other service elements. Staff should be congratulated for their hard work and in keeping their focus on the BVPI targets in order to maximise the Planning Delivery Grant for 2007/8.

11. The Council has made great strides to meet the initial targets and each of the three targets has been met (major, minor and other applications). However in order to achieve this success it has been necessary to continue to use consultants, agency staff and overtime payments. Not to adopt this strategy would have meant a significant risk of failing to meet targets and consequent failure to secure a maximum PDG. Even with the use of planning consultants case loads per officer have risen from 175.9 in 2004/5 to a current figure of 190 cases per officer. The DCLG and the Audit Commission have expressed concerns about the sustainability of these workloads set against a national benchmark of 150 cases per officer. Attached at Annexe 1 is an extract from ODPM research into Standard Authorities.

12. The costs of this strategy over the first quarter April to June 2006 was as follows. The table also shows the full year affect of this strategy were it to continue.

Table 1 Additional Revenue costs.
ItemCost per monthTotal April JuneTotal Year
Planning Consultants2,0006,00024,000
Agency Staff (Admin)1,8005,40021,600

13. The revenue budget is essentially 12,900 overspent against the allocated budget. The current highwork load is generating this. The essential question is given that the PDG accounting period is now extended to the end of March 2007 how can we still achieve the required targets without the continued use of these extra resources? Managers do not consider it will be possible to maintain this level of performance over the coming months without additional resource to manage this exceptionally high workload.

14. It is also important to note that this increased workload is placing pressure on other services that input into the planning process. In particular there is a heavy demand on legal services and environmental health officers in responding to development issues.

15. Equally important are other service areas that are currently being delivered at a lower standard that normal and are beginning to raise customer complaints about lack of responsiveness and delay. These service areas need to be addressed to maintain the integrity and reputation of the service.

16. Service areas that are currently not being delivered to the standards that the Council aspire to are:

Pre application advice.
Discharge of planning conditions
Requests for minor amendments
General enquiries
Compliance requests.
Responses to complaints.

17. The increase in applications has also meant an increase in fee income and this is reflected in Table 1 for April to August 2006. In the first four months of the financial year fee income is 65,235 above the same months in the preceding year.

18. The budgeted income for 2006/7 is 680,000. Based on a range of assumptions from income being no more than last year for the rest of the year to an optimistic assumption to an income of 60,000 per month then a predicted income of 741,402 to 826,434 could be anticipated. These figures also take account of fees likely to be associated with the East Street Development and Dunsfold Park Limited. This equates to an income of 61,402 to 146,434 over the budget position. The Budget Monitoring Report elsewhere on this agenda shows projected additional development control income of 50,000 in 2006-07. This estimate does not include income from known major applications and is broadly in line with the range shown in Table 2 below.

Table 2
Planning Fee Income
based on last years income
assumes 50,000 per month plus extra
assumes 60,000 per month plus extra
Est 68,000
East Street outline & Dunsfold fees

19. Whilst 38% of planning income over the period July 2005 to March 2006 has come from major applications these applications make up only 2.3% of the total number of applications. Fee income is extremely difficult to predict and is swayed greatly by a few major applications attracting large fees. Together with the uncertainty surrounding PDG this makes it extremely difficult to predict income and set accurate budgets.

Table 3
July 2005 - March 2006
% Major38.37%2.34%
% Minor30.03%22.14%
% Other31.60%75.53%

Short term Resources

20. This report demonstrates the importance of ensuring that sufficient resources are in place to both address the current workload and to respond to major fluctuations in demand throughout the rest of the year. Members are asked to approve that the additional development control income currently projected in 2006-07, as shown in the budget monitoring report, is used to offset this year's approved budget reduction target of 45,000. Members are also asked to approve the delegation of authority to the Director of Planning and Development, in conjunction with the Director of Finance and the Portfolio Holder, to employ additional resources to meet the current cost pressures identified in Table 1 and if required, to meet future increases in workload. Any such additional resources would be subject to the maximum value of any additional income actually generated above the level required to offset the savings target. It is proposed to review the position on a month-by-month basis and consider the resourcing of major applications on a case-by- case basis. Flexibility in any additional resources employed will be ensured to enable a quick response to fluctuations in service volumes.

Major Development Projects

21. There are significant major projects being worked upon by officers. These include the East Street Regeneration Project, Dunsfold interim uses, Dunsfold new settlement proposals, and Godalimg Key Site. It is anticipated that appeals may be lodged soon in relation to the Cranleigh Brick and Tile proposals and Farnham Hospital developments.

22. These projects are extremely challenging and time consuming. Increasingly Developers are asking the authority to consider a Planning Delivery Agreement as promoted by the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Planning Advisory Service. An extract from the DCLG web site is attached at Annexe 2 explaining a little about these agreements. These agreements are essentially concerned with project management issues and seek to bring some certainty to the development process with regard to timetabling and commitments from both developers and local authorities.

23. The Leader and the Portfolio Holder have already agreed to appoint Southern Planning Practice to manage the East Street Planning Application in a similar way to that of the Cranleigh Brick and Tile Application. There is an initial estimate of 18,000 plus vat and expenses for this work. Dunsfold Park Limited has also requested that a Planning Delivery Agreement be entered into with regard to their new settlement proposal. A copy of the draft agreement is attached at Annexe 3. Officers have asked Southern Planning Practice to quote for this work i.e. the Dunsfold New Settlement Application and pre application expected later this year. This quotes includes some economy of scale since the same team from Southern Planning Practice could work on the Dunsfold and East Street projects, providing back up and continuity. Officers have indicated to Dunsfold Park Limited that the Council cannot guarantee its part of the agreement in the current context without further resources. Dunsfold Park Limited has indicated that it is prepared to cover the Council’s costs for making these services available.

24. The basis of such arrangement would be that consultants would be employed by and would be working to the instructions of the Council. There will be no control by the developer over the consultant or their reports to the Council. The decision on any matter being considered by the consultant would rest entirely with the Council. ATLAS has provided further guidance about these agreements.

25. The power to charge for such discretionary services is set out in the Local Government Act 2003 and includes discretionary charging for Development Control, Planning Policy, Environmental Initiatives, Economic development and Community Development. Such agreements would meet the tests under the Act providing the charge was primarily for pre application discussions and the recipient accepts the charge. Further guidance on discretionary charging is set out by CIPFA in their publication “A practical guide for Local Authorities on discretionary income generation”.

26. The Executive is therefore requested to agree to the appointment of Southern Planning Practice to assist the Council work on the Dunsfold New Settlement proposals and for the costs of this work to be recharged to Dunsfold Park Limited.

27. The Executive is asked to consider the following matters in relation to its procurement procedures.

1. Given other high workloads and the nature of the work required in this case the department does not have capacity to ensure that the Dunsfold new settlement project will have the dedication and focus to achieve the timetable. 2. In these circumstances the Director of Planning and Development wishes to appoint Southern Planning Practice as an external consultant to the project with immediate effect. To do so would require the Contract Procedure Rules A108 and H through to L to be waived. 3. The reasons for seeking this action is: An appointment is required now and without delay.
Southern Planning Practice is known to the authority in terms of its quality and resources as evidenced in their work on Cranleigh Brick and Tile proposals.
Selection of a consultant would not necessarily be based on best price but mainly on a commitment to meet the timetable and to a high professional standard.
Southern Planning Practice is able to bring some economy to the project due to its work on other projects and importantly a team resource to provide consistency of service.
Time does not allow for the normal tendering process of requiring three tenders to be submitted by post, the assessment of tenders, the creation and testing of assessment criteria and contract negotiations.
Pre application negotiations have commenced and assistance is required now.


It is recommended that the Executive

1. recommends to Council that the current projected increase in development control income above the 2006-07 budget, as identified in the budget monitoring report, is used to offset the approved budget reduction target of 45,000 in 2006-07, and;

2. recommends to Council the delegation of authority to the Director of Planning and Development, in conjunction with the Director of Finance and the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Major Projects, to employ additional resources to meet the current cost pressures identified in Table 1 and if required, to meet future increases in workload, both being subject to the maximum value of any additional income generated above the level referred to in (1) above. 3. agrees to waive contract procedure rules to allow the appointment of Southern Planning Practice without competitive tendering to undertake work in connection with the Dunsfold new settlement proposals, such costs to be recovered from the developer.

4. recommends to Council that delegated authority be given to the Director of Planning and Development in conjunction with the Director of Finance to enter into arrangements with consultants to carry out planning work in relation to Planning Delivery Agreements that developers are willing to fund.

Background Papers
CIPFA – A Practical Guide to Local Authorities on discretionary income generation.
Planning Advisory Service and ATLAS – Pilot Planning Delivery Agreements
ODPM – “An Overview of the Evaluation of Planning Standards Authorities 2004-05”
ODPM -- Formulation of Guidance on Access to Planning Information and Charging for copies of documents.
ODPM—General power for Best Value Authorities to Charge for discretionary Services-Guidance on the Local Government Act 2003.


Name: John Anderson Telephone: 01483 523298




An extract from:
“An Overview of the Evaluation of Planning Standards Authorities 2004-05”

Rationale of caseload
The delivery of an effective development control service relies on having sufficient
staff with the necessary expertise to perform the task. There is no official guidance
on the number of staff needed to provide a service effectively and local authorities
appear to have largely expected the work load to be undertaken within the income
available for staffing. This has resulted in vast disparities of caseloads between
authorities. In 2004/05 some authorities had caseloads significantly above 200 cases
per annum per development control officer although in one authority it was only 90
cases per officer.
In order to give precision to assessing the caseload of individual standards
authorities the following definition of caseload has been used:
The number of applications received in a year (only those included in the PS1/2
return) and divided by the number of established FTE posts for that year, ignoring
current vacancies or any short term support.
In carrying out the assessment of standards authorities a sustainable caseload has
been taken to be around 150 applications per case officer. This takes into account
their input into some other work e.g. pre-application meetings and applications not
included in the PS1/2 returns but not aspects such as appeals and enforcement.
The 150 figure represents an average of approximately 1.4 days per planning
application and covers applications ranging from minor extensions and alterations,
to major applications for complex and or substantial new developments. It is a
benchmark figure and will be affected by the profile of applications within a
particular authority. Although major applications account for only 3% of all
applications determined in England their impact on the time available can be
considerable especially if they result in an inquiry. A greater proportion of major
applications is likely therefore to result in the need for a smaller average caseload.
The use of the benchmark of 150 is not unduly low but is well below the average
caseload figure of 175 for the 2004/05 standards authorities.
It is apparent that while the 150 caseload figure can be used as a simple tool for
assessment purposes planning authorities should consider using a more evidence
based approach to determine what staff they need. In order to do this an
appreciation of the following is needed:
• the number of major, minor and other applications per annum over a 3 year
period and an understanding of the profile of the different categories;
• the number of applications not included in the returns to ODPM together with
any duty officer work, the scale of pre-application discussions, training and the
• how appeals and enforcement complaints are handled and their numbers;
• the experience and skills profile of staff needed to perform the tasks including
the level of managerial support or supervision required;
• the policy of the authority on the use of consultants/agency staff to fill
vacancies and to handle peak workloads;
• the implications of development plan policies and sites coming forward;
• the number of applications requiring section 106 agreements;
• the geographical area and the ease or difficulty of undertaking site visits;
• the capacity and availability of non case officer staff to undertake part of the
• committee and delegation processes that require officer time;
• the priority the authority gives to negotiation, achieving quality development
and public consultation;
• staff turnover rates;
• an awareness of the caseload of other comparable well performing development
control services.
Using the above information authorities can bring forward their own assessment of
the number of staff needed to provide an effective, quality service which will result
in a sustainable workload for case officers. This information enables the service to
make a case within the authority when bidding for resources and to plan ahead in
terms of staff recruitment and training.
A similar approach can be adopted towards caseloads for enforcement staff.
An Overview of the Evaluation of Planning Standards Authorities 2004/05


Extract from Department of Communitites and Local Government Web Site.

New planning pilots launched for large developments in the South East
Published: 24/01/06
New pilot projects intended to improve and speed up the planning process for large and complex developments in the South East have been launched by Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper.
The Planning Delivery Agreement pilots will give greater certainty to developers over the handling of their applications, provide a project management framework for local authorities and ensure that local communities are properly consulted early on in the process.
In the South East there are seven participants in the first stage of the pilot schemes. They are:
Isle of Wight County Council, Wind Farm
Ashford Borough Council, Victoria Rd, redevelopment for further/higher education
Shepway District Council, Nichols Quarry - mixed residential & commercial use
Bracknell Forest Borough Council, Peacock Farm residential scheme
Oxford City Council, Earth Sciences block
Canterbury City Council, residential units in Kingsmead
Medway Council, new settlement at Chattenden Barracks
Under the pilots, developers, local planning authorities and other stakeholders will work together with a commitment to an agreed project plan. This will set out a defined timeframe for a decision, highlight the resources and community engagement required, and ensure that sustainability and design standards are properly considered.
Yvette Cooper said:
"There have already been great improvements in handling planning applications but too often very large applications take a long time to sort out, creating uncertainty for both developers and the local community. The planning system needs to do more to support sustainable development. By improving the process for handling these applications, Planning Delivery Agreements will help to make the planning system more efficient so that community groups and developers alike know what the timetable is and where they stand."
The British Property Federation has also given its support to the pilots. Chief Executive Liz Peace said:
"We believe it is entirely sensible to treat a planning application for a development just like any other business project, with a proper timetable, statement of resource requirements and an understanding of key deliverables etc. Consequently, we thoroughly support this initiative and would urge members of the development community to enter into these pilots with enthusiasm."
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has been developing these proposals in partnership with the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) and the Advisory Team for Large Applications (ATLAS).
Also published today is Planning Delivery Agreements, a report by ATLAS which concludes that PDAs should make a significant contribution towards both the quality and pace of the planning process. ATLAS has also developed some guidelines to aid those taking part in the pilot.
Whilst improving and speeding up the process for determining large applications, Planning Delivery Agreements will not alter the outcome of decisions, each case is considered on its own merits and all of the current safeguards in the planning system will remain in place.
Following the pilot schemes an evaluation will inform future decisions on the use of Planning Delivery Agreements, which will also assess possible incentives for local authorities to take part.


Dunsfold Park Master Plan
Planning Delivery Agreement
The purposes of this agreement (PDA), which represents moral commitments by the parties not a legally binding agreement, are:
1. to set down a programme for the preparation, submission and determination of a planning application relating to the development of Dunsfold Park; the ultimate aim of such a programme is to make the handling of the planning application as effective (for example in relation to stakeholder and public consultations), efficient and expeditious as possible
2. to set down the mutual obligations of the applicant, Dunsfold Park Ltd (DPL), the planning authority, Waverley BC (WBC) and key consultees who become parties to the agreement (to be determined); these obligations relate especially to the information offered and requested in relation to the application;
3. to identify the lead officers in the participating bodies (incl DPL)
4. to open the programme to the public in order to facilitate their participation in the process.

For clarity, the engagement of WBC is of the Council as a whole, that is all departments with an interest in the scheme and members as well as officers.

This draft Agreement is submitted to the Council for comment and for a response on certain issues that need to be agreed at the outset e.g. names of lead officers and identification of other agencies to be engaged in the PDA process (assuming they are willing). Where the text refers to queries etc from WBC, this includes other participating agencies if appropriate.
Policy Background
It is acknowledged that the proposals for a mixed use development of the airfield are not fully compliant with planning policies. Participation in the PDA does not imply any acceptance by the Council or consultees that the development proposals are acceptable. The Council’s liberty to decide the application favourably or unfavourably is not fettered in any way by this agreement. A key element of the Agreement is the Council’s undertaking to supply DPL with a list of the questions the Council wishes to see answered by DPL in order to enable WBC to decide the application in as informed a manner as possible.
Lead Officers
The lead officer for WBC will be John Anderson
The lead officer for DPL will be Ian McDonald
Distribution of Documents
Documents supplied to the participating bodies will be sentby CD-Rom. Documents supplied to WBC by DPL will be copied by DPL to other participating agencies where appropriate and vice versa. WBC and DPL will exchange email distribution lists.
DPL is intending to submit the planning application at the end of September 2006.

The key stages in the programme are set out below.

Draft Agreement
Draft PDA supplied to WBC 5/5/06
WBC and other participating agencies respond with queries and comments by19/5/06. Parties approve the terms of the agreement 9/6/06.

Submission of Planning Application Scoping tbc
The scoping note will set out the nature of the planning application and the scope and contents of the supporting documents. It will include an outline of the planning case to be made for the development. It will also include the Scoping Reports for the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Transport Assessment (a draft of which has been supplied to SCC for comments).
WBC and other consultees will respond to:
EIA & TA Scoping Reports
Scoping of planning application including provision of questions to be answered by DPL
by 16/06/06 or within four weeks of receipt of each document (five weeks in the case of the EIS).

Preview of DPL’s June Consultations
In the second week of June DPL will provide WBC with copies of the material on which they will be consulting publicly in the third week:
Feedback from the February consultations
The preferred Master Plan option and some detailing of its components
Briefing papers on key elements of the Master Plan:
o Housing
o Landscape, recreation and nature conservation
o Transport and access
o Utilities
o Economic development
o Commercial and community services
Provisional s.106 commitments.
This is an appropriate time to hold a DCCF.
WBC to respond by second week of July or within four weeks of receipt of each document.

Draft Planning Application
DPL will consult on the Draft Application in the week commencing 4th September and will put draft information to the Council at the same time. WBC will raise queries on the validity of the application within one week of submission.

This is an appropriate time to hold a DCCF.
WBC to respond by end of September or within three weeks of receipt of the documents.

Meetings have been arranged between DPL and WBC officers in order to receive (commentary on) the Council’s responses:
4th July for Council to provide DPL with response to scoping reports and to provide questions on which they seek answers in order to decide the application in an informed manner.
12th September to review the draft application.
Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

Post Submission

Submission of Planning Application via Planning Portal – mid-October

WBC send initial round of questions to DPL six weeks after registration

DPL respond within four weeks (sooner if possible).

WBC send second round of queries to DPL within four weeks of receiving responses from DPL on first round

DPL respond within four weeks (sooner if possible)

WBC decide application within 13 weeks of registration

DPL review possibility of appealing on grounds of non-determination within 13 weeks of registration.