SIR, — I read with keen interest your article and comments (Herts Advertiser, March 6) on the recent Planning Advisory Service diagnostic concerning the progress of our vital Local Development Framework (LDF). Being a sad soul I have read the report cover
SIR, - I read with keen interest your article and comments (Herts Advertiser, March 6) on the recent Planning Advisory Service diagnostic concerning the progress of our vital Local Development Framework (LDF). Being a sad soul I have read the report cover to cover and consider it highly damning.
Sometimes it all too easy, as I often do, to fall into a preset position to rubbish any report by any Government-funded organisation. However this one I believe is more credible than most. Many of the points raised in this diagnostic chime with what I have heard and read while observing St Albans District Council meetings.
As you pointed out, we have a very elderly local plan and last September, by order of the Government, many of those adopted planning policies had to be dumped. Therefore until the council have a new set of policies in place, they are effectively flying by the seat of their pants using national policies and guidance rather than bespoke. Whether we support this new way of making planning policy or not, is not the main point in my view. The important issue is surely to ensure we have the right policies within the framework to protect and enhance what we treasure in this district.
So when I read the following in the report I broke out into a cold sweat: "There is still insufficient understanding of the role of the LDF to deliver the community and corporate priorities at member and officer level with the result that the LDF is 'planning's' responsibility, not a corporate task. Senior management are not engaged and supporting the process particularly in terms of content from the information provided but concerned primarily about deadlines."
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"There would appear to be a considerable underestimate of the scale and complexity of the task facing the LDF officers and the nature of spatial planning."
"The staffing levels in the team and the experience level is unlikely to be sufficient for the task...."
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"The team is very small in practical terms and trying to handle a substantial agenda under considerable pressure. Some team members are also very inexperienced and there has been a high turnover in the past."
I feel in this case rather than shooting the messenger, the leaders of this council should be shamed by this report. Sir Winston Churchill once said: "Give me the tools and I'll finish the job." Clearly this council is not giving our planning officers the tools or support to do the job. Fire-fighting to meet short term deadlines is taking priority.
The proposed budget cut in planning of £150,000 demonstrates more eloquently than I or PAS could ever put in words, the appalling lack of appreciation by council leaders of all of the duties of being our local planning authority.
Tennyson Road, St Albans.