The Head of Planning and Regeneration is invited to the meeting to provide members with an update.
Members were reminded that at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting held on 14th January, 2019 a topic proposal form was submitted to review the Council’s Planning Enforcement Department, in particular, to look at processes and breaches of Planning Policy and Regulations.
Members were advised that should the Board agree to establish a Task Group for an investigation of the work and processes of the Council Planning Department that the initial meeting would need to be arranged in the new municipal year.
The Development Management Manager and the Head of Planning and Regeneration gave a presentation in respect of the planning enforcement process and the breach of planning control. The key areas were highlighted as follows:
· What was a breach of planning control? A breach of planning control was defined in section 171A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. If there was a breach of planning control, the Council would initially try to resolve the matter locally, before resorting to any formal enforcement action.
· When should enforcement action be taken? Whilst the Council had powers to take enforcement action if there was a breach, enforcement was there to prevent inappropriate development that would not get planning permission. It was explained that a large number of breaches had no action taken against them because they caused no planning harm.
· What are the time limits for taking enforcement action? It was explained that there were set time limits as to when enforcement action could be taken.
· What happens with enforcement enquiries? The process of how an enquiry would be dealt with from the initial report was explained, including the allocation of an officer to each case.
Arising from the presentation Members made the following comments and raised a number of concerns. Officers provided responses as follows:
· With regards to enforcement cases, Members felt that the current mechanism in place, to inform Members of any cases in relation to enforcement, was not working. Members were advised that if an enforcement enquiry was made, they would be advised at the initial stage and would also be made available to the public. However, once enforcement action had started this would not be available as it became a criminal case and the sharing of information may impact on the Council’s case. However, The Head of Planning and Regeneration confirmed that she would be happy to share some of this information, in confidence, with Members, upon request.
· Officers clarified that any orders made would be available to the public; however, the full details of the case would remain confidential.
· It was explained that the information would not be made available for public interest until a notice was served.
The Head of Planning and Regeneration emphasised that if Members had any concerns in relation to a particular site then they should contact her and she would be happy to discuss this with them.
The Head of Planning and Regeneration offered to meet with Members individually to go through any particular enforcement concerns they may have in relation to their Wards. Members also requested that the Council Enforcement Policy be made available to them.
The Portfolio Holder for Planning and Strategic Housing encouraged Members to talk to the Planners if they had any concerns regarding particular sites in their Wards. He accepted that it was difficult when legal enforcement action was being considered and that there was a need for confidentiality at some stages of that process.
Members asked for it to be noted, that whenever they had raised issues with the Planning Team, that they had been pleased with the support received, particularly in respect of any enforcement issues.
The Chairman asked Members to put forward any suggestions regarding any further steps to be taken in respect of the topic proposal and Members responded that it was felt that it was too broad. It was also recognised that a particular enforcement case could not be included within any review that was carried out.
Councillor S. Webb proposed that the presentation and the discussions simply be noted and that no further action be taken.
Councillor M. Thompson proposed that the topic proposal be added to the work programme of the Board for future consideration.
Members were reminded that the Board had previously carried out a detailed review with regard to the planning process and in particular enforcement processes and procedures was undertaken in 2011.
Members requested that the presentation be disseminated to them for their perusal.
RESOLVED that the presentation be noted and that no further action be taken.