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

PUBLISHED: 17:00 31 August 2016

Tracy Harvey

Tracy Harvey

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.

“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.”

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CountryPhile

I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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