St Albans planning department chief responds after officer singled out for disciplinary action

Tracy Harvey

Tracy Harvey - Credit: Archant

A planning official in St Albans who was disciplined for poor performance has emerged as the only planner out of an estimated workforce of 12000 nationwide to get a rap over the knuckles.

The unnamed St Albans council officer emerged in Freedom of Information Act requests by The Times newspaper as the only one from 336 councils to be rapped over the knuckles specifically for poor performance over the past five years.

The daily newspaper discovered that dozens of staff had been disciplined for other offences with 15 planning officials across the country having been dismissed for fraud, gross misconduct or breach of council policy.

In common with other councils close to London, St Albans has struggled to recruit and retain planning officers and is running at well below the required number.

It is still managing to deal with 78 per cent of planning applications within the eight-week statutory period with the average decision time for all applications currently standing at 11 weeks.

But major applications average 54 weeks before a decision is made and minor applications 13 weeks. Householder applications average 10 weeks.

St Albans council’s head of planning and building control, Tracy Harvey, said they did not comment on individual cases but, she went on: “We monitor and manage the performance and conduct of all our employees closely to ensure we deliver our services effectively and provide value for money.

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“If there are unacceptable levels of performance or conduct we will take any necessary action to resolve the matter.”

She added: “Our planning department is one of the busiest in the country and demand has been rising. Our target is to process 75 per cent of planning applications within the statutory timescales and we are achieving this.”