Planning at Rother – Update

Since May 2019 we have been working hard to improve the planning service at Rother. We thought this would be a suitable time to provide you with an update on some of the changes we’ve made to the service.

Speaking at Planning Committee

In late 2019 we introduced new rules to make it easier for Parish Councils, applicants, supporters, and objectors to speak at planning committees. This led to Rother having some of the most flexible rules when it comes to public speaking at meetings of any UK Planning Authority.

Processing applications and dealing with the backlog

The speed of processing planning applications had become a real problem for applicants. In September 2020 we conducted a review of the planning service. This resulted in a full range of improvements, including:

  • A better way for customer services and planning to communicate – so questions and answers can be dealt with more efficiently. This has proved an enormous success and means customer services can answer customer queries much more quickly.
  • A new telephone rota service that provides cover for urgent queries from customer services via customers.
  • A new mapping system for customer services containing all the information they would typically need to answer customer queries.
  • Enforcement Notices have been made live on the Council’s website – meaning that customers can now view notices currently back to 2012.
  • A re-design of several parts of the planning website – to improve access and navigation for those visiting the site.
  • A restructure of the planning management so it is better integrated with the rest of Rother Council.
  • A change of approach by officers to look for reasons to approve an application where a decision might be marginal.
  • A new pre-application advice service introduced with the majority of timescales met.
  • The commencement of a regular agent’s forum to make sure we keep listening.
  • The introduction of a trigger point so when our level of applications rises it automatically flags the need to bring in additional resources

What’s been the result?

  • 100% of major applications determined within agreed timescales.
  • 78% of minor applications determined within agreed timescales and is on an upward trend.
  • 87% of all other applications determined within the agreed timescales – a figure that continues to rise.
  • A fully resourced planning service with the previous high staff turnover rate issues now stabilised.
  • The number of applications on hand cut by 60% in the last year – which means officers are now not overloaded.
  • The number of complete applications waiting for validation has been cut, so validation of new applications is being done within a week of receipt.
  • The number of enforcement complaints on hand have been halved in the last year which is allowing enforcements officers more time to resolve new complaints.

We still have a lot of work to do to make our service – for residents, agents, and other stakeholders – one that delivers efficiently and effectively all the time. With that in mind, we have a series of projects underway as we continue this improvement journey.

Jonathan Vine-Hall – Portfolio Holder, Strategy and Planning
Myles Joyce – Development Manager

Published: 24th February 2023

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