If we told you about every delay, we’d never do anything, Bedford planners say Bedford News

Bedford Borough Council planners try to keep applicants informed of decision delays, but if they updated them every day, planners wouldn’t have time to do anything else, a meeting heard.

Jon Shortland, managing director – planning, infrastructure and economic growth, told the Planning Review Task & Finish Group last week (March 10), that the determination periods for major and minor planning requests are used by the government to verify the performance of local planning authorities.

“They have set particular targets to determine which major requests they want to see 60% resolved within 13 weeks and with minors they are looking to see 70% within eight weeks,” he said.

Bedford Borough Council

“In both cases, if you agree an extension of time with the applicant, these 13 and 8 week deadlines can be extended.

“Our actual performance over the past nearly two years for the majors has been very good, against that 60% target, we’ve reached 81% in 2021, and we’ve currently reached 83% in the first three quarters. from 21/22.

“The area where we didn’t perform as well is in minor apps, where the performance for 20/21 was 72%, so it was above the threshold but not by much.

“In the latest league table that the government has produced, which covers the two years to the end of September 2021, our determination rate is 71%.

“And that currently puts us 322 out of 333 local planning authorities.

The group’s chairman, Councilor Stephen Moon (Conservative, Great Barford Ward), asked if there were any plans to determine the ‘right’ delays.

Mr Shortland replied: “No it’s not, that would be a very subjective argument to decide what was good and bad.

“While we could try this on our own, we certainly couldn’t do it against any other authority.”

Mr Shortland added that some delays can be “useful”.

“There’s an initial reaction to thinking that anything past its deadline is a bad thing,” he said.

“This is not necessarily the case if you are a candidate facing rejection, but feel you can provide additional or new information that will help tip the balance in your favor.

“So agreeing to an extension of time is clearly a good thing for you.

“It’s also a good thing to make the right decision, because we can do it based on all the information we have, rather than a partial view of the situation.

Council development manager Janine Laver said planning officers tended to let applicants know there were delays.

“Some candidates are very supportive of this and will grant extensions,” she said.

“Some are not as sympathetic and will never grant an extension despite everything.

“Most of the time, you’ll be asking for an extension because you’re expecting a consultation response that would be intrinsic to the outcome of an application.

“So if we haven’t had a response from the highways, for example, or a response from environmental health on noise, we just can’t do an assessment on certain applications in time.

“We can chase the people consulted, they might come back and ask for additional information, in which case we might either refuse because the application is inadequate, or we can then say ‘listen, we’ll give you time to respond’ and some are ready and others are not.

“So you can never say it’s black and white why an officer is asking for an extension, but they’re not just asking for an extension ‘can I have another four months because I’m going to sit on your case because it’s just not a priority”, it’s just not the case

Councilor Kay Burley (Labour, Kempston Central & East Ward) asked if the reason had been passed on to the claimant.

“Because if the applicant is sitting there waiting for the planning officer to make the decision and the planning officer is waiting for someone from the highways, then the applicant must know that, right?

“Even if you can’t negotiate, at least the information needs to be released to the requester, because as advisors I can’t speak for the other three advisors that are here, but we get aggro when that happens. .

“Although I can see what the situation is, the requester gets upset if he doesn’t actually know what’s going on.”

Ms Laver said: “There are times when an officer will have the opportunity to update their candidates.

“If they updated their candidate every week, every day, they would never get any work done.

“You can understand if they are carrying 100 cases and there are various reasons why they are not looking at that case that day because they put aside the writing of reports that day.

“They just won’t have the ability to contact someone to say ‘I’m still waiting for a response from the highways’, for example.

“So they can’t be responsive all the time, we have the scheduling portal where most candidates who use an agent check what’s coming as soon as we have answers.

“It’s the job of the candidates themselves to check that too, because if that review comes from someone consulted asking for more information, they can, at their fingertips, see what that response is.

“They don’t need a planning officer to contact them, if the answer isn’t there, we still haven’t received it.

“But really, there aren’t enough hours in the day for all cases, and for all the various reasons why something isn’t determined within that time frame, it just isn’t not feasible.

“We could spend our entire working day sending out updates, and sometimes you just have to go into silent mode for a few days and you can actually get written reports of who’s come back, so you can actually get some decisions.

“Instead of just sending chases or replies all the time.

“Nothing is perfect, we can do better, we can always improve, but we just have to be realistic as well,” she said.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-14 15:06:01

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