The Local Government Association has stated that Local Authorities will have faced a reduction to core funding from the Government of nearly £16 billion over the preceding decade, with Council’s losing 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for local services. The consequential effect for many Local Authorities has been a squeeze on staff numbers and a need to achieve efficiencies to deliver the same level of service, but with lesser resources. The effect that this has had on Planning Departments and the standard of service offered to applicants has been significant.
A lack of resource in Local Authority Planning Departments has significant implications for the delivery of development projects, as the Local Authority is involved at differing stages in the process and can often add considerable delays to the project time frame. There is time spent engaging in pre-application submissions, the time spent waiting for applications to be determined, which often over run and are subject to requests to extend the determination period, and the time spent making submissions to address planning conditions. In one recent case it has taken one Local Authority in excess of 15 months to determine a discharge of conditions submission, as they have had to prioritise the determination of planning applications over other cases. The consequential effect has been a significant delay to the delivery of that particular project, and one which we cannot be resolved by way of a Deemed Discharge submission.
A properly resourced Planning Department should have the capability to enter swiftly and constructively into pre-application discussions, to give feedback on applications at an early stage in the process rather than in the last few days of the process, and to provide prompt responses to discharge of conditions submissions. Unless Government funding is increased, or more radical solutions such as outsourcing are implemented, the continued issues associated with under-resourcing look set to continue. We would support any efforts by the Government to increase spending on Local Authority Planning Departments to ensure that they are able to offer an effective and timely service to customers, which in turn will help to ensure that development projects run smoother without such significant delays.
Hewitt&Carr Services has nevertheless established a strong working relationship with all of the Local Authorities within the North Staffordshire area and wider West Midlands region, and proactively monitors its applications to ensure that any adverse issues raised during the determination of an application are addressed promptly. If you have a parcel of land or development project you are interested in exploring please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the matter further.