Agenda item



The Assistant Director for Planning provided clarification and response to questions from Members in relation to the service plan for the service for 2023-24.


The service plan for the coming year included:

·        To progress the Local Plan through to a publication draft in accordance with the timetable set out within the local development scheme and in accordance with Members aspirations outlined in the Council Plan. 

·        Following adoption of the Cranbrook Plan, to determine planning applications for the expansion at Cranbrook and secure the range of uses needed to create the vibrant town envisaged by policy; and to determine applications for the expansion areas at Cranbrook to maintain a supply of housing plots and meet the aspirations for growing the town.

·        To manage the efficient and orderly transfer of data in the local land charges system to the Land Registry.


Clarification and responses included:

·        Ongoing difficulties around staff recruitment and retention have impacted on service delivery.  It is hoped that the recent Reward Review will make the Council more competitive with other public sector organisations, and this will be tested in advertised roles; however, public sector salaries will always lag behind private sector, and people can only compromise to a certain extent.  The service is also working to grow its own surveyors and planners for the future, with apprentices being brought in.  Additionally, professional bodies are opening up greater routes to qualification into the planning and surveying professions, but it will take time for courses to embed and for people to come in through these routes.

·        It was noted that planning fees set by central government have not increased since an inflationary increase around 8 years ago and do not reflect the amount of work involved.  Michael Gove MP recently made an announcement about changes to the planning system, including revised fees, and it is hoped that further detail will be announced before the end of the financial year. 

·        Following any further announcement from central government around changes to the planning system, the Council would need to wait until a revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is in place for it to impact planning decisions, and it is not known how long this will take.  The Strategic Planning Committee could consider holding off on some decisions in terms of the Local Plan, until such time as the NPPF consultation and its implications are fully understood.

·        East Devon is the lead authority for the mitigation strategy for phosphate levels arising from development affecting the River Axe, and is due to receive £100k in funding for the catchment as a whole.  A report will be brought to Strategic Planning Committee outlining how the funding could be used; the funding could pay for a dedicated officer to put together the mitigation strategy, with consultants brought in for specialist areas of work.  Mitigation is already being delivered through a number of projects and it should be no more than a couple of years before contributions come in through the planning process.  There is a risk that in prioritising contributions towards protected habitats, developers will be less able to deliver affordable housing and this is beyond the Council’s control; however, the Council will do its best to secure affordable housing within these constraints.

·        Currently the Environment Agency is leading on a project which potentially delivers mitigation for the River Axe on a wider scale, with associated cost efficiencies; the Assistant Director for Planning hopes to bring a report to Members in the next couple of months about how the Council can work with the Environment Agency to address the issues. 

·        Headlines from the Local Plan consultation are expected to be brought to the March meeting of Strategic Planning Committee.  All consultation responses including emails and slips written by hand at drop-in centres will be taken into account.

·        In respect of delivering infrastructure, CIL was only meant to be part of the funding and unless further funding streams become available from government, there will be insufficient resource to deliver all of the infrastructure that is needed.

·        It is hoped that a draft Playing Pitch Strategy will be brought to Members for adoption, within the next six months


Recommended to Cabinet by the Overview and Scrutiny Committees that the Service Plan 2023-24 for the Planning service be adopted.

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