Leap in planning performance after improvement plan delivers

16 December 2016

A five point plan to boost planning performance has seen a 30% jump in the number of applications determined within national targets.

Councillors have praised planning officers for the leap in performance that now means that decisions are being issued on 91% of major and 79% of non-major applications within 13 weeks and eight weeks respectively.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s improvement plan included:

- Validating applications within five days – this checks all the information needed to assess an application has been submitted correctly and the Council can begin the public consultation

- Setting tighter targets for each stage in the application process to avoid unnecessary delays

- Working with applicants in advance of them submitting their plans to ensure good quality and accurate information is provided

- Improving communication with applicants, parish councils and local groups

- Setting up a dedicated team to deal with a backlog of nearly 1,000 applications at the start of 2016. These were cleared by the end of October

Council bosses have said that after turning around the performance of the service, they are now committed to maintaining the speed of processing applications. They have also said that they will continue to work with local people and applicants to deliver further improvements to the planning service that benefit applicants and local communities.

Cllr Robert Turner, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “It is very good news that we have seen such a huge leap in our performance. Having made significant strides over the last five months on major applications we are now near the top of the national league tables. It is nevertheless vital that we continue on our improvement journey so we are able to lead growth in the economy and provide the high quality new homes that the area needs. We recognise that the service we had been providing didn’t meet the standard we expected, or our communities deserve, and we would like to thank local residents and businesses for their patience. We know there is still a way to go but I am particularly pleased with the positive feedback we have had from councillors from all political parties over recent months as residents in their wards are beginning to notice improvements in the service we are providing.”

Planning decisions have been issued on time for 91% of major and 79% of non-major applications over the last five months.

For a 24 month rolling period up until September 2016, the Council had determined 47% of major and 63% of non-major applications within 13 weeks and eight weeks respectively.

A major planning application is considered as 10 homes or more, or 1,000 square metres or more for a business development.