Waverley Borough Council Home Page Waverley Borough Council Home Page


Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 07/12/2004
THE PLANNING SERVICE - OPTIONS FOR FUTURE SERVICE DELIVERY.



Summary & Purpose
This report is prepared as a follow up to reports to the Executive in May, July and August 2004 with regard to improvements to the Council’s Planning Service. Those earlier reports essentially focused on short-term actions to improve performance on Development Control BVPI indicators. This report is focused on longer-term service plan options arising from changing demands on the service. The main objective of the report at this time is to flag up these changing demands, the alternative service options and the likely resource implications that need to be considered as part of the Council’s overall budget setting considerations including the use of Planning Delivery Grant.

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 Q
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE – 7TH DECEMBER 2004
_________________________________________________________________________
Title:
THE PLANNING SERVICE - OPTIONS FOR FUTURE SERVICE DELIVERY.

[Wards Affected: All]
_________________________________________________________________________
Summary and purpose:

This report is prepared as a follow up to reports to the Executive in May, July and August 2004 with regard to improvements to the Council’s Planning Service. Those earlier reports essentially focused on short-term actions to improve performance on Development Control BVPI indicators. This report is focused on longer-term service plan options arising from changing demands on the service. The main objective of the report at this time is to flag up these changing demands, the alternative service options and the likely resource implications that need to be considered as part of the Council’s overall budget setting considerations including the use of Planning Delivery Grant.
_________________________________________________________________________
Quality of life implications – social, environmental & economic (sustainable development):

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

E-Government implications:

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

Resource and legal implications:

The recommendations may have significant implications requiring additional resources depending on the Executive’s conclusions. However at this time it proposed that the resource implications are fed into the wider budget considerations for 2005/6

In addition members will note that the ability to grow services to meet changing demands may wholly depend upon the level of Planning Delivery Grant allocated for 2005/6.
_________________________________________________________________________
Introduction.

1. This report has been prepared at the request of the Planning Portfolio Holder on behalf of the Executive with the purpose of allowing the Executive to consider future service delivery options.


2. The report is structured into four parts.

□ The changing demands
□ Resources
Service Options
Recommendations

3. The report does not repeat the contextual information set out in the report to the Executive on 24th May 2004 that explained workloads, performance, recruitment and retention issues and the Planning Delivery Grant context. This has further been elaborated by the work of the Environment and Leisure Overview Scrutiny Committee in its review of Development Control.

The Changing Demands on the Planning Service.

4. The 2004 Planning and Compensation Act introduced a new planning system with significant changes to both plan making and development control activity. The Government’s intention is to make planning an activity central to all Council functions with plans now being able to take into account non-land use issues and being derived from the Community Strategies. The planning process is seen to be a positive and enabling activity to make things happen rather than a process of control. It is seen as a management tool to achieve Community aspirations rather than a system for regulation.
5. The Government has introduced a new plan making system called the Local Development Framework (LDF) which commenced on 28th September 2004. Some key considerations about the new system are as follows.
6. The key consideration is that officers are not able to guarantee delivery of the new plan to the Government’s specification unless the LDS is realistic in its scope and resourcing. At the present time, this means, with current resources, that officers cannot deliver the original policy aspirations suggested by the LDF Special Interest Group and confirmed by the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee. This has particularly been underlined by the failure to recruit at an appropriate level a Principal Planning Officer – Housing and Enabling. However, officers share the desire of members to put in place sound and appropriate policies for Waverley as quickly as possible as the overall system will remain plan led and development control decisions will continue to reflect the quality of policies.

7. The new LDF requirements and recruitment issues are beginning to place a strain on the Policy and Special Projects Team which has the responsibility to progress important regeneration schemes for the Council. East Street and Riverside Developments and the Godalming Key Site are currently the two main drains on this resource but equally Cranleigh Brick and Tile is likely to make demands in the near future.

8. New legislation concerning the control of nuisance hedges is anticipated to commence early next year. The regulations and procedures have not been published and therefore it is difficult to plan for this service with confidence. There is currently no budget provision for this enforcement service within this financial year. Provision needs to be made for this service in future Service Plans. Provision for some emergency service to cope with an anticipated flood of complaints is currently built into next year’s revenue budget.

9. The government wishes to see the development control service being more a management regime than a controlling regime. This means that simple applications should be determined under delegated authority against clear policy tests. For more complex applications the Government is encouraging a Development Team Approach and consensus building at pre application stage. The Government has included a BVPI to measure performance against this next year. Members will have noted the Statement of Community Involvement, previously considered, not only deals with plan making but also major applications. The implications are to place more emphasis on pre application discussion, preparation of development or concept statements, and member engagement at an early stage. A model for community involvement is the East Street Scheme currently being worked up based on Cambridge City Council’s Development Forum and the Council’s experience with the David Lloyd Planning Event. This model was due to be considered by the Development Control Committee on 30th November 2004 with a view to making recommendations to the Executive (see Appendix U of this agenda). This should assist the Council maintain and improve its performance in terms of speed and quality of decision on major and minor applications.

10. The continued failure to deal adequately with breaches of planning control is becoming a growing concern to the public, members and staff. The Local Government Ombudsman is also particularly interested in how the Council intends to improve this service following a lack of action on a particular case and which he concluded to be maladministration.

11. The caseload appears to have settled at 500 investigations a year. Having compared this to Reigate and Banstead and Chichester Councils it is evident that Waverley is significantly under resourced in this area.

Service Options

12. It is proving to be very difficult to plan service delivery in the face of uncertainty about;
Financial resources,
Skills and experience,
New and untried procedures

Resource Implications

13. The government’s ambition is to recover the full costs of the Development Control Service from planning fees. It is a long way from doing that but is proposing an above-inflation increase in planning fees from April next year. Based on current workloads, this will result in a 90,000 increase in planning fees. It has also indicated that future Planning Delivery Grant might be discounted against increases in fee income. Given the Council’s step change in Development Control performance, it is hoped that despite an increase in fees, the Council will receive at least the same amount of Planning Delivery Grant for 2005/06 of approximately 100,000. Planning Delivery Grant will be announced in February 2005 for Development Control Performance and May 2005 for other planning services. The Government has also become aware that some planning authorities may be manipulating performance figures to achieve higher PDG. Waverley is not one of those authorities and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has suggested that future PDG may also be distributed to compensate for inequitable and historic awards of PDG and that is likely to be to Waverley’s advantage.

14. At the moment, the Council operates a free advice service on the need for planning permission. This is due to be replicated by Waverley’s ground breaking self-help PD enquiry system in January 2005. Some Councils have chosen not to do this but ask for a Lawful Development Certificate for a proposed development, which attracts a fee. If this approach was adopted it could generate in the order of 20,000 additional income from fees.

15. The planning application fees associated with East Street, Godalming Key Site and Cranleigh Brick and Tile sites are likely to attract significant fees in excess of 77,000 next financial year. This has not been accounted for in the draft budget as timetabling on these projects is only beginning to firm up.

16. There is, therefore, likely to be an additional income to the service in the range of 186,000 to 297,000. Officers have not closed their minds to attracting greater Planning Delivery Grant based on Development Control’s and Policy and Special Projects Team’s recent performance but nothing is certain until the grant is announced. This would have the effect of boosting this range further.

17. This is set out in Annexe 1 to this report.

Skills and Experience

18. It is evident that the growth in planning posts is outstripping the supply of experienced planners to fill them. The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee heard evidence on this matter on 18th October 2004 from neighbouring Councils and the Publicity Officer from the Planning Officer Society. Officers have abandoned hope of recruiting an experienced Planning Officer to the important Housing and Enabling role and are now seeking to restructure the Policy and Special Projects Team with the objective of:

New and Untried Processes

19. The resource implications arising from new processes are unclear and officers have to make assumptions and estimates based on a combination of experience and debate within the planning profession and feedback from GOSE. It is worth noting that GOSE appears to be taking a very cautious approach to contents of initial LDS’s as it is concerned about the resources of authorities to deliver on commitments. GOSE has warned that it will not accept LDS’s that are not realistic.

Future options.

20. There is no one answer to the combination of issues and pressures facing the service. Officers believe a long-term view needs to be taken and a combination of approaches adopted. Some of these strategies have already been adopted but may need strengthening. The recommendations of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee are helpful pointers to the direction of travel on the route of continued improvement.

21. The service is focused in achieving the Community Strategy and Corporate objectives through the use of planning powers. The critical tasks and outcomes are set out in the Department’s Service Plan. In order to continue to meet these objectives, the following strategies are suggested:-

22. Given the pressures facing the Policy Team there is a need to review the structure in order for this team to deliver into the future. The attached structure at Annexe 2 sets out the current organisation whilst Annexe 3 sets out the proposed arrangements.

23. It has not been possible to recruit to this post at Principal level. The proposal is, therefore, to rationalise the existing protected principal officer salary in the team with this post. The resultant Senior Officer post that will be freed up will be converted to a Career Planning post spanning the Planning Assistant and Senior Officer grades. This will produce an immediate saving of 14,000 on the budget. Appointment and progression will be based on qualification and experience and performance. It is anticipated that an appointment will be at the lower end of the pay scale.

24. Managers are concerned that three existing Principals will be asked to undertake the work of four posts currently. To overcome this problem, it is suggested that each of the principals should have support from a career planner. One will be the converted Senior post as discussed above, one a conversion of the existing Technician role, with no budget implication and the third would depend upon Planning Delivery Grant. It is believed that in this way the officers will be able to cope with the workload as well as develop new capacity for future projects.

25. This post would deliver urban design experience and capacity to initially assist in the East Street/ Godalming Key Site regeneration schemes. This will also score against the quality checklist for PDG purposes.

26. The post could pick up Hindhead AAP and later Cranleigh Centre policy and/or Haslemere AAP with support.

27. Input into pre application discussions, concept statements and briefs would be an important role.

28. The cost of this position in year 1 is likely to be covered by the planning application fees associated with the regeneration schemes but longer term funding would be dependent upon PDG or budget provision.

29. The function here would be to bring additional capacity to manage Community Involvement programme and events, collate and assess responses and generally assist in the administration of the LDF and other projects in a support role to Principal Planning Officers. This post may not necessarily require a planning qualification but could offer an opportunity to develop into planning if appropriate. This post would again be dependent upon PDG.

30. Officers are continuing to explore opportunities for joint working with other authorities but at this time progress is slow and the immediate prospect is not optimistic.

31. This report does not seek to repeat the work of Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny on Development Control and reported elsewhere on this agenda.

32. Performance on applications has dramatically improved but at the expense of enforcement investigations and quality time spent on pre- and post-application discussions. This reflects the number of service complaints in these areas.

33. Should Planning Delivery Grant be available then the following priorities are recommended.
34. The overall priorities and estimated costs are set out at Annexe 1.

Accommodation

35. Should additional staff resources be made available then there will be an accommodation issue to resolve as the Development Control, Support and Policy Teams are already short of space.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Executive
___________________________________________________________________________
Background Papers (DoP&D)

Arup Economics report on Resourcing of Local Planning Authorities, Ove Arup and Partners International Limited report on Planning Fees.

_________________________________________________________________________

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: John Anderson Telephone: 01483 523298
E-mail:jaanderson@waverley.gov.uk




comms/exec/04-05/329
40754