(Link to Council Priorities: P1 and P3)
The Portfolio Holder for Planning Services introduced the report and advised the Cabinet that, as a result of a recent review of the planning service, a number of operational changes to improve the service had been identified.
With regard to Development Management, to maintain the current performance level of determining planning applications and providing pre-application advice, the planning service relied upon the constant employment of at least three temporary case officers. Given that temporary contractors were an expensive way to populate a planning service, permission was sought to recruit three additional permanent Senior Planning Officer posts (one for each of the sub area teams).
The Portfolio Holder reported that one of the operational changes proposed by the Head of Planning Services was to realign the work flow for case officers, team leaders and planning managers, the details of which were outlined in the report. Furthermore, in order to realign the work and reduce the existing backlog of overdue cases, it was proposed that the three existing temporary contract workers be retained until December 2018.
In respect of Planning Policy, the Portfolio Holder advised that the existing planning policy assistant post was a 2-year fixed term post funded from the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant (HPDG). As this fixed term post had been agreed on 3 previous occasions over the last 7 years and given that this role would support the preparation of the Local Plan and work with the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) / Obligations and Monitoring Officer, it was proposed that this post be made permanent and funded from the 5% CIL administration pot from 2019/20 onwards.
The Cabinet noted that it was also proposed to secure a transport consultant / consultancy to work on the evidence base studies for the Local Plan with Surrey County Council, Transport for London and Highways England. The consultant / consultancy would also support the Infrastructure Delivery Coordinator with the preparation of the Infrastructure Delivery Plan and infrastructure projects in the Borough and those which could have an implication for Elmbridge. The Portfolio Holder advised that this resource would also be funded from the CIL 5% administration fund.
Furthermore, in order to complete several key pieces of evidence for the Local Plan, the Head of Planning Services had also identified the need to extend the existing policy temporary contract until December 2018.
The Cabinet supported the proposed changes which would ensure the Council’s Planning Service provided both excellent customer service and outstanding planning professionalism.
Recommended: that the findings of the review of the Planning Service be supported and the addition of officer posts (3 x Senior Planning Officer and 1 x Planning Assistant) to the permanent establishment with the budgetary provision as identified in the report, be agreed.