Posted: Sat 27th Apr 2024

Improvements Being Made to Planning Enforcement Investigations in Powys /

COUNCILLORS have been given an update on work being done to improve investigation of potential planning enforcement cases in Powys.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Planning committee on Thursday, April 25 councillors were introduced to two new enforcement officers who are key in turning the department’s performance around.
Their appointment follows a highly critical report by Audit Wales of the planning services which was published in May last year.
The enforcement or lack of it at the council came in for criticism.
Audit Wales concluded that Powys is: “not effectively managing the enforcement workload.”
Audit Wales believed that the impact of this lack of planning enforcement means “unlawful and sometimes dangerous developments” may be built in Powys.
Development management team leader, Gemma Bufton explained the work being done to turn things around.
Ms Bufton said: “We developed an enforcement action plan and this came up with four aims.”
These are: “to reduce the planning enforcement caseload, to embed the two new planning enforcement officers, to improve the customer experience and meet planning performance measures.”
Ms Bufton said: “As a result of getting these two new planning enforcement officers in place we initially looked to target the backlog we had.
She said this was a “result” of Covid-19 and staff leaving the authority.
Ms Bufton said “We were able to close 180 (cases) in quite a short time and that was their first responsibility.
“We have now moved on and are at the second phase of that process.
“We are looking to prioritise the new cases coming in to us and making sure that we are getting back and investigating them in a timely manner.”
“We are looking to get to 80 per cent of all enforcement cases investigated in the 84 day timeframe.”
She explained that in this process the “clock starts” as soon as the council receives a complaint and stops when the planning authority has concluded when a decision is reached on whether a breach or not has occurred.
If it is decided that is that a breach has occurred, the decision is then on what enforcement action to make.
Action would include issuing stop or planning contravention notices and “negotiating” with the party that has made the breach.
At times breaches are solved by retrospective planning applications being submitted to the council.
Ms Bufton explained that the enforcement case load had been shared amongst planning officers in response to the Audit Wales report will now taper off – with all new cases going to the new dedicated staff.
Ms Bufton added councillors can help the department by pointing people who want to report alleged breaches to the relevant parts of the council’s website.
Ms Bufton said: “We have an online complain form which has an interactive map where people can drag the screen and drop a pin where exactly the breach is.
“For us it takes the guesswork out of where the breach is.”
Committee chairman, Cllr Karl Lewis said: “For me it’s very positive to have two dedicated enforcement officers in the department.”
Cllr Angela Davies: “I’ve had a look at the forms and their simple and easy to use.”
Portfolio holder for Planning, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jake Berriman stressed that complaints can be made confidentially and if people still have concerns the complaint can be made under the name of the local county councillor.
The planning enforcement statistics for the three available quarters from last year are:
For April – June 2023/2024 – 44 cases were investigated, 34 or 77.27 per cent were within 84 days with the average time of enforcement investigation being 98 days.
July to September – 2023/2024 – 40 cases were investigated, 18 or 45 per cent were within 84 days with the average time of enforcement investigation being 376 days.
October to December – 2023/2024 – 54 cases were investigated, 29 or 53.70 per cent were within 84 days with the average time of enforcement investigation being 278 days.
Councillors noted the report. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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