Christine’s Planning Blog: In praise of our planning department

Published March 26, 2018 at 17:19

Welcome to the second edition of my planning blog. As Portfolio Holder for Regulatory Services, planning comes under my remit.

I am full of admiration for the work our planning officers do. It is one of the core functions of the Council and can also be one of the most controversial. It is often a thankless task because there are often many different views to take into consideration. But every planning officer I have dealt with over my years as a councillor has always displayed the highest standards of professionalism and expert knowledge of rules and regulations to offer advice and guidance to councillors who ultimately have to make decisions on complex and complicated applications.

I have no hesitation in saying our  Planning Department is one of the best. Officers always strive to secure the best and appropriate development in the borough, making sure any decision is made within legislation and guidelines set down by National Government.

The figures show we have a very effective and efficient planning department and Development Control Committee. Between February 2017 and February 2018, only 30 decisions went to appeal. To put that in context, we have dealt with about 700 applications so the number of times our decisions have been overturned at appeal, 12 in the last 12 months, is minimal.

There is also a lot of work that goes in before application even get to the decision making stage. Our officers regularly work with developers to secure the right development for the borough.

There are plenty of examples of where the work of our officers working with members of this Council has delivered positive outcomes for the borough, its residents and also developers too.

For example, we can rightly point to with pride the work we did on the McDonald’s in Rawtenstall application, which we won an award for. As the judges stated, we pressed for a more creative solution than the original one proposed. We negotiated for seven months and McDonald’s architect finally came back with what the judges said was “a bespoke, contemporary and attractive building”. This gives you an indication of how much time and effort goes into just one application. It also shows we are not afraid of pushing back if we don’t think the development is right for the borough.

I am also delighted the team has been shortlisted for a national prestigious award for Planning Team of the Year, one of only five local authorities in the UK to be shortlisted.

That is why it is disheartening to hear recently that some people including some very prominent people who should know better say our department is not fit for purpose or poorly performing.

Of course, you may disagree with decisions made and you may be unhappy with the outcomes but it’s unfair to question the quality of our officers, department and committee.

All the facts show our planners do this Council proud and I am proud to work with them.

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