Contact: Democratic Services
Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday, 15 July 2020 were declared a true record and signed by the Chairman.
The report of the Executive Manager – Communities is attached.
The Service Manager – Communities, Planning and Growth delivered a presentation on Planning Enforcement, which accompanied the report already circulated with the agenda.
In the presentation, the Service Manager – Communities, Planning and Growth and N Cox, Principal Planning Officer provided details on the following issues:
· the Council’s Corporate Enforcement Policy, which had been adopted in March 2010 and last revised in June 2017;
· what constituted a breach of planning control and the range of ways to tackle them;
· timescales involved for taking enforcement action;
· the various enforcement tools available to the Council;
· the appeals process against the serving of an Enforcement Notice;
· the different enforcement tools available to the Council;
· categories of enforcement enquiries received by the Council from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020;
· the outcome of investigations in 2019/20;
· the number of notices served by regional councils since 2014;
· the team structure;
· the number of planning submissions received from 2010 to 2020; and
· various case studies.
At the invitation of the Group, Councillors had been asked to submit written submissions on their experiences of planning enforcement. The Group had received submissions from a number of Councillors and those had been considered by the Executive Manager for Communities and the Service Manager – Communities, Planning and Growth. The report and presentation had provided responses to some of the questions raised by the Councillors, and a Question and Answer document would be produced following the meeting to address any remaining issues and points raised during the meeting.
Following the last Council meeting, the Chairman of the Growth and Development Scrutiny Group had invited Councillor Jones to attend this meeting to provide his thoughts on the Council’s planning enforcement process.
Councillor Jones stated that following a conversation with Planning Officers earlier this year, he had become concerned that current staffing levels were insufficient to cope with the volume of work, especially given the growth in the number of applications and the scale and complexity of large developments. He was aware of instances where specific environmental protection measures had not been undertaken by developers as specified as part of the planning permission. There needed to be more emphasis on proactively ensuring that work was being undertaken and conditions were being complied with.
The Service Manager – Communities, Planning and Growth advised that there was no definitive definition of what constituted ‘harm’, it was subjective and a matter of scale and degree.
Councillor Thomas reiterated the comments made by Councillor Jones and queried if developers were notifying officers when trigger points where met, which required work to be undertaken. That was particularly important when developments where passed over to management companies and residents, who might be charged if works were not completed. Although the proactive monitoring of developments over 50 dwellings was welcomed, it would be helpful if that 50 dwellings limit could be reduced.
The Service Manager – Communities, Planning and Growth confirmed that with the exception of two sites, all of the new larger developments coming forward where ... view the full minutes text for item 20.
The report of the Executive Manager – Transformation is attached.
The Customer Services Manager and the ICT Manager delivered a presentation on Customer Services and Digital by Design, which accompanied the report already circulated with the agenda.
In the presentation, the Customer Services Manager and the ICT Manager provided details on the following issues:
· the history of the One Stop Shop from 2005 to the present day;
· the partners who work with Customer Services;
· the average time taken to answer an enquiry over the telephone;
· the numbers of people accessing the various contact points;
· the channel shift in how people access services from 2013 to 2020, and how that has changed during the Covid-19 lockdown;
· the key achievements for Customer Services from the Digital by Default Programme from 2014 to 2017;
· the Digital by Design Programme 2018;
· the key projects already delivered by Digital by Design; and
· the projects going forward in 2020/21.
The Chairman and members of the Group welcomed the move towards hybrid meetings and the increased flexibility it would allow everyone going forward. Reference was made to the importance of still having face-to-face contact; however, it was considered appropriate to embrace new methods of working. It was noted that those new ways of working had also been embraced by the Customer Services team, whilst ensuring that face-to-face contact via virtual technology was still possible for people who preferred that method.
In answer to a question regarding security and data protection and the processes in place to ensure the integrity of those engagements, the ICT Manager assured members of the Group that this issue was at the heart of the Digital by Design Strategy, in terms of security and privacy by design. The issue would be reviewed before any new initiative went live and that would continue going forward.
Councillor J Stockwood noted that many people had been seriously affected by Covid-19 and were unwilling or hesitant to interact with other people, and queried how Customer Services was reaching out to the vulnerable to reiterate that there were safe ways to do so.
The Customer Services Manager confirmed that throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Customer Services had continued to operate as normal, with telephone and email access and if any member of the public had wanted to see an officer, an alternative solution would have been found.
Councillor J Stockwood referred to the use of open data sets and asked if the Council would be following the approach of other councils in sharing data in a standard way to help drive the digital economy.
The ICT Manager advised that the Digital Strategy would not replace face-to-face contact; it would improve access by increasing options. In respect of open data, that was an aspect of being digital and the Council was open to that and looking for opportunities to collaborate with other local authorities.
Councillor Thomas commented on behalf of Councillor Way, who echoed the comments made by previous Councillors regarding the benefits of on-line meetings and welcomed the start-up of the service in East Leake.
In answer ... view the full minutes text for item 21.
The report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services is attached.
The Group considered its work programme and suggested potential items for future scrutiny.
It was RESOLVED that the Work Programme as detailed below be approved.
14 October 2020
· Abbey Road Development
· Planning Enforcement – Part 2
· Work Programme
20 January 2021
· Management of Open Spaces on New Developments – Part 2
· Town Centres Update - Cashless Society
· Work Programme
21 April 2021
· Work Programme