PLANNING COMPLIANCE CHARTER
Decision Maker: Communities Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: For Determination
The Lead Member for Planning, Public Protection and Safer Communities introduced the report and appendices (previously circulated), the purpose of which was to seek the Committee to review the Planning Compliance Charter’s effectiveness to date. It also sought members’ support for proposed amendments to its contents and/or to increase the resources available for planning compliance work across the county.
Prior to inviting questions, the Planning and Compliance Officer drew members’ attention to the proposed amendments to the Charter, as highlighted in Appendix 1 to the report.
Members commented on how useful the Charter had been to them in dealing with residents’ planning compliance queries and the prioritisation process for dealing with such complaints.
In response to members’ questions on the Charter and the proposed amendments, the Lead Member and officers advised:
· that whilst the Service continued to deal with a backlog of planning compliance queries, which in the main had been instigated during the first COVID-19 lockdown period, the workload was reducing in terms of caseloads. The appointment of a second Planning and Compliance Officer in August 2021 had helped ease the pressure.
· some cases were historic and extremely complex and would therefore require some considerable time and resources to resolve;
· that circumstances when the Council could divulge the names of complainants etc. were clearly set in regulations e.g. General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) etc. However, they did not prohibit the Council from informing councillors or city, town or community councils (CTCC) that they were investigating alleged breaches. We are currently exploring how, using available software, we can keep local members and CTCC’s regularly informed on planning breaches within their areas;
· that regular meetings were held with local members when concerns were raised about unauthorised development issues in open countryside and woodlands;
· that a lot of enquiries were directed to the pre-planning application process for relevant advice on when planning permission was required;
· that the Charter had to work on two different fronts, signposting residents to the types of developments which required or did not require planning permission, whilst also drawing the attention of contraveners to the potential consequences of developing unauthorised dwellings or non-compliance with conditions stipulated as part of the granting of planning permission;
· there was a risk that, individuals who had not sought planning compliance advice and developed or refurbished their property without the necessary consents, could fall foul of the system at a later stage if they attempted to sell their property and the property searches process alerted prospective buyers to non-compliance issues;
· people’s expectations regarding the enforcement and ultimate remedying of non-compliance matters needed to be managed appropriately;
· the revised Charter made provisions for alleged breaches that were approaching immunity from enforcement actions due to the passage of time to be treated as ‘high priority’ cases;
· that the prioritisation process was aimed at dealing in a pragmatic way with potential breaches. Officers illustrated examples of how this would be done;
· that the Council did operate a ‘bring-up system’ which did flag-up cases with time-limited conditions on them and alerted officers to check that residents/applicants were continuing to conform with the conditions granted for those properties before the expiration date;
· that Planning Compliance training was being prepared for the new Council; and
· that councillors were advised to act as fact-finders rather than mediators in planning disputes between neighbours in their wards. It was advisable for them to signpost individuals to the Council’s Planning Compliance Service for technical advice on planning and development matters.
Members emphasised the importance of having a clearly worded document that was easily accessible on the Council’s website, to enable them to signpost residents to it and demonstrate that the Council did take planning compliance contraventions extremely seriously and would act to rectify them via enforcement action.
At the conclusion of the discussion the Committee:
(i) subject to the above observations, and the strengthening of the wording and advice in relation to breaches of planning control in paragraph 1.2 of the revised draft Charter, to endorse the draft Charter entitled ‘Planning Compliance in Denbighshire – Planning Compliance Charter’ (Appendix 1);
(ii) to support officers’ intention to present the final version of the Charter for Lead Member approval; and
(iii) to confirm that they had read, understood and taken account of the Well-being Impact Assessment (Appendix 2) as part of their consideration.
Publication date: 10/03/2022
Date of decision: 10/03/2022
Decided at meeting: 10/03/2022 - Communities Scrutiny Committee