St Albans district planning system ‘strained’

MP Anne Main has uncovered data that reveals the extent to which the district council’s planning system was stretched in the last 12 months.

The figures show that nine planning appeals were submitted to the Secretary of State (SoS) in the last 12 months after the council failed to make a decision on the planning application within the statutory timetable. In the 2009/2010 period, there were no planning appeals submitted.

Mrs Main asked the SoS for Communities and Local Government at the end of last month how many appeals had been submitted by the district council in the last five years. The answer, she says, reveals just how strained the system has become in recent years.

Mrs Main said: “There were nine submitted last year but I am sure there were many more and it reveals a lot about the planning system. This is a department under pressure and it’s clear now how gridlocked the planning application system was. I’m intrigued to know what the financial costs have been to the council because of this.”

Heather Cheesbrough, head of planning and building control at the council, said: “Of the nine planning appeals that were submitted because of non-determination by the council in 2010/11, two were withdrawn. Of the remaining seven cases, five were dealt with by the in-house team with no additional costs. Two more complex cases, which are not related to the backlog issues, involved the use of consultants with resulting costs standing at �9,161 to date.

“We accept that some residents have been adversely affected by poor service, which we sincerely regret. Residents should be able to expect a swift and timely service from our planning team and the changes we are making are designed to make this possible in the future. With the extra resources and the new automated processes now in place, we are working hard to rectify the situation.

In 2008/09 there were three appeals submitted, just one in 2007/08 and two in 2006/07.