Members to receive an update on the Planning Enforcement Service.
The Committee had before it a *report from the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration outlining the planning enforcement service.
The Group Manager for Development Management explained that planning enforcement was a statutory function of the Council but the power to take action was a discretionary service that was an important one in the eyes of the public. She explained that any enforcement action needed to be proportionate.
She informed Members that the Enforcement Plan required a refresh due to the adoption of the Local Plan. She explained that there were currently 2 enforcement officers and that the current number of outstanding cases was 222 due to the lockdown restrictions on site visits but this was comparable to neighbouring local authorities of similar size.
In response to a question asked about the Council not following up on all planning conditions imposed she explained that with over 1500 planning applications approved per year there was not the resources to check every single condition had been complied with. If a breach was reported by the public it would be investigated.
Members discussed the report and consideration was given to:
· Resources in the Planning Service was biased towards planning applications and not enforcement
· The perception of the public who saw the Planning Service as biased toward developers
· Not enough information provided to Members about planning enforcement outcomes
· The timeframes for legal action
· The requirement of Members to receive training on planning enforcement
· The desire of Members to see the Council taking quicker and firmer action
· Who determined what was proportionate or not and was this standard across all authorities
· That biannual meetings with other local authorities enforcement services would be useful
The Group Manager for Development Management explained that the authority needed to determine if legal action was the appropriate course of action and that it was not a crime to breach planning control. The legislation around planning enforcement was weighted towards protecting the environment and preventing harm, that action taken by the enforcement team was not explicitly to ‘punish’ any breaches but to seek to prevent harm in planning terms, and that legal action was not appropriate in all cases.
Members agreed that they wanted to look at the issue in more detail and AGREED to set up a Working Group to look at the Enforcement Plan and question planning officers about the current process.
The Scrutiny Officer agreed to work with Members to develop a Scrutiny Proposal Form which would determine the scope and the outcomes of the Working Group which would be presented at the next meeting. Membership of the Working Group would be determined at the next meeting.
Note: *report previously circulated and attached to the minutes.
Reason for the decision – Planning Enforcement was an issue of clear public interest and scrutiny could help to ensure that proportionate and robust processes were in place.