Posted: Fri 9th Feb 2024

Blaenau Gwent Planners Outperform Welsh Average, According to Report /

BLAENAU Gwent planners have been consistently performing well above the Welsh average, a report has shown.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday, February 8, councillors were presented with a report detailing how the authority’s Planning Department performed between April and the end of June last year.
Committee chairwoman Cllr Lisa Winnett said: “It’s another good report for Blaenau Gwent.”
Development and estates service manager, Steve Smith said “This is April to June 2023. It is some time ago, but we can only report these figures as they appear on the Welsh Government website.”
He added that performance from July to the end of September would be reported to committee at their next meeting in March.
The data shows that council planners decided 97 per cent of applications inside the timescale – which is an eight-week period, or an extended time agreed with an applicant. The Wales average is 86 per cent.
This sees Blaenau Gwent in third place in the league table for all of Wales’ 25 local planning authorities.
On the second measure, it took Blaenau Gwent planners 95 days to decide each application, which is less than the 103 days average across Wales.
But this is a drop off in performance, as during January to March last year Blaenau Gwent had been taking 84 days.
This leaves Blaenau Gwent in a mid-table 13th position of 25.
Mr Smith said: “This indicator has dropped slightly from previous performance, and I think that a direct consequence of us seconding out one of our planning officers to work on the new software implementation.”
The last measure is how many planning applications decided by councillors at Planning Committee, went against the recommendation of planning officers.
For this period, the Blaenau Gwent Planning Committee had not gone against any planning officer recommendations, while the average across Wales was five percent.
On the league table for “decisions contrary to officer recommendation” Blaenau Gwent sits at the top.
But this is because 16 of the 25 local planning authorities also had no contrary decisions and Blaenau Gwent comes first when the authorities are listed in alphabetical order.
Cllr Wayne Hodgins recalled the decision to allow planning officers more delegated powers to decide planning applications and believed it had speeded up the process.
Cllr Hodgins said: “That reflects in the tables, we (councillors) were debating some applications that didn’t need to come in front of us.”
Cllr Winnett added that planning application that “need to come” to Planning Committee are doing so.
Mr Smith said: “There always a balance between providing a speedy and efficient service and members considering applications that are of wider public interest or raise policy issues.
“What’s important here is that we keep an eye on the scheme of delegation – if you feel it needs further tweaking, we can look at it again.”
Cllr Peter Baldwin added that more training for councillors on planning issues had also contributed to the better performance.
Cllr Baldwin: “It’s a team effort and we all need to work together.”
Councillors noted the report. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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