Posted: Thu 29th Jun 2023

Blaenau Gwent planning performance sees improvement over last year

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 29th, 2023

The performance of Blaenau Gwent planners has improved during 2022 councillors will be told. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

A report measuring the department’s performance will be presented to councillors at a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Plantation committee on Thursday, June 15. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

But there is no data that shows where Blaenau Gwent performance ranks amongst the 25 planning authorities across Wales. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Planning authorities are expected to decide planning applications in an eight-week period after they are submitted. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In Blaenau Gwent, the figures for 2022 show that from: January to March – 93 per cent of applications were decided in time, April to June – 99 per cent, July to September – 93 per cent and from October to December – 95 per cent. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In terms of days to decide planning application the figures for 2022 were: January to March – 69 days, April to June – 82 days, July to September – 70 days and October to December – 73 days. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Head of planning, Steve Smith said: “The post Covid-19 period has seen a steady and consistent improvement in performance. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Whilst it is not possible to benchmark this data across other authorities, the returns are all 90 per cent plus which is where we would expect to be given historical data. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“If we can reduce the average time, it will reflect positively on this indicator also.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Before the pandemic, the time taken by staff to decide an application was “between 60 to 70 days” and the team are “striving” to get back to this level. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Another change in the data sees the number of decisions taken by the Planning committee which goes against the advice of planning officers has plunged. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Between January and March 2022 – 43 per cent of decisions made by councillors went against officers’ advice. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Following the May 2022 local election, a new Planning committee was formed. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

From April to June – 17 per cent of the decisions were against officer advice, from July to September – 17 per cent and from October to December there were none. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Mr Smith said: “Members may be aware that this is an indicator that has long been a cause for concern. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“The fact that Planning committee takes a different view to officers is not in itself an issue, provided that any decision is based upon material planning considerations, then this demonstrates due process has been followed. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“However, the sheer volume of overturns, coupled with a poor appeal record in recent years which has resulted in a number of costs awards for what the (planning) inspector has recorded as unreasonable behaviour amounted to concern both within the council and externally with Audit Wales.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

On this issue Blaenau Gwent were consistently below the Welsh average and in the bottom two performing authorities in many quarters. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Mr Smith said: “It is pleasing to note the decisions taken by Planning committee contrary to officer recommendation has shown improvement over the 12-month period.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

All 22 councils across Wales are planning authorities as are Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) Eryri (Snowdonia) and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authorities. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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