Agenda item

Review of Planning Services Fit for the Future

To review the progress of the Planning Service Fit for the Future project.


(Note:  The Leader of the Council, Chief Executive and Director of Pride in Place have been invited to attend for this item.)


The Chief Executive, Anne-Marie Bond, provided the background to the establishment of the Planning Service Fit for the Future project and provided an update on the progress, as set out in the submitted report and responded to the following questions together with the Leader of the Council, Councillor David Thomas:


·                     Were the extensions of time for processing applications a set timeframe.

·                     The number of outstanding enforcement cases was high, how long have some of the cases been going on and do we have sufficient staff to address the backlog.

·                     What were the operational challenges and concerns by the Ombudsman regarding enforcement cases and how was this being addressed.

·                     The report mentioned IT and business process re-engineering, were we standardising processes and dealing with planning matters in the most effective way.

·                     What happens when the project ends at the end of March 2024 and were reviews being built in.

·                     Do we have the timeliness of processing planning applications broken down by officer.

·                     Customer relations and customer interaction was really important to ensure that customers, especially agents and architects can speak to Planning Officers and be kept updated on the progress of their applications, what was being done to ensure this happens.

·                     A customer had reported that the new Planning Portal would not accept an iCloud email address from Apple, what testing was carried out to ensure that all customers were able to access our systems.

·                     When will the new IT system be completely rolled out, including all enabling works.

·                     What performance levels were expected for completing planning applications by March 2024.

·                     The report states 100% customer satisfaction, how many customers did this relate to.

·                     Could a mechanism be put in place to provide Ward Councillors with details of applications that start to receive a number of objections.

·                     What was being done to educate people on the planning system and help manage expectations on what the Planning Team can and cannot do.

·                     There had been a history of recruitment and retention issues, was the workforce more stable and was the culture now one of enabling and empowering staff.

·                     What action was being taken to update the Torbay Infrastructure Funding Statement.

·                     The EXACOM Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106 Obligations Portal was not picking up the right wards or towns what was being done to test and check the accuracy of this data.

·                     The report refers to monitoring performance of a wider set of key performance indicators and localised improvement targets, could these be shared with the Board for future updates.

·                     Were all planning applications peer reviewed.

·                     What was the position regarding revised applications following negotiation or when was it more appropriate to have the application refused and a new application submitted and how was this being applied to ensure consistency.


Resolved (unanimously):


1.         that the contents of the report be noted;


2.         that the Chief Executive ensures that she reviews the assessment of resources available to address the backlog of planning enforcement raising with Cabinet any issues as appropriate;


3.         that the Director of Pride in Place be requested to ensure that there is a suitable mechanism in place for case officers to update Ward Councillors on appropriate applications in their ward.


4.         that the Chief Executive takes forward the comments made at the meeting of the Board with the Project Board in relation to communications with our customers, and in particular, agents and architects (this to include more telephone conversations between agents/architects and the Planning Department), internal peer reviews of applications, provides clarity about circumstances in which alterations of plans are appropriate, and ensuring the accuracy of data within EXACOM; and


5.         that the Board receive an update on the conclusion of the project post March 2024, to include the performance information going forward and the revised performance indicators and localised improvement targets.

Supporting documents: