West Lindsey District Council says it has improved its enforcement of planning, but some councillors appear less convinced.
A report for Challenge & Improvement Committee said its planning enforcement division had sufficient resources, with staff ‘closing’ cases within 11.5 weeks on average, in line with a council ‘customer charter’ on planning.
It also said WLDC is issuing fewer enforcement notices as people are increasingly happy to work informally with the council to resolve issues. All enforcement action is being dealt with in less than a year.
Andy Gray, Team Manager Housing & Communities, told last week’s committee meeting planning enforcement has been a concern for the council over 3-4 years due to a large increase in a number of cases needing investigation, but these numbers have since declined with cases “being managed in an effective way.”
However, Coun Malcolm Leaning (Lib-Dem- Nettleham), a planning committee member, suggested council staff previously removed cases “with a pencil” to reduce the backlog.
But Mr Gray replied cases are now closed in a “legitimate way” and this was “not done to keep the figures down.”
However, councillors seemed less than convinced.
“There’s an awful lot of planning decisions we won’t make unless we had confidence their conditions could be enforced. We haven’t had that confidence for a few years,” Coun Leaning said.
Committee vice-chair Nigel Bowler (Lab-Gainsborough North) said planning committee was putting conditions on projects which “were not being met.”
“I don’t have the confidence I should have. I have so much experience of developers running rings around our planning department,” Coun Leaning continued.
Director of Resources Ian Knowles suggested an extra audit of planning enforcement to give councillors confidence in it.
However, Coun Angela Lawrence (Con-Caistor) said a special audit would be “undermining for the staff.”
Members voted to audit enforcement in a future regular auditing ‘round’ noting this would avoid unnecessary cost.