Overstretched Brighton and Hove planning department refusing non-urgent work

Posted On 04 Aug 2015 at 11:36 am

Brighton and Hove’s planning department is refusing all non-urgent work as departing staff means it is currently too overstretched to keep up with applications.

Brighton gv Prestonville by Hassocks5489City councillors were last month informed the department has stopped doing anything but statutory work in a bid to catch up with its workload.

The backlog has been blamed on staff turnover following the departure of head of planning Martin Randall in May, and means some services, such as pre-application advice on minor schemes, will be withdrawn until new staff are up to speed in October.

The council’s planning register shows that more than 550 applications received this year are still under consideration more than eight weeks after being received by the council.

The law states that all applications must be decided within eight weeks except major developments, which must be decided within 13 weeks. If an application is not decided within the statutory timeframes, applicants can appeal to have them approved by default.

Speaking last week, Tom Druitt said: “It seems that they’re dealing with planning applications and not really anything else. They do usually offer advice and help with the process and various other resources but it just seems that there’s such a backlog that they’re in shutdown mode and doing the absolute minimum that they have to do by the law.

“It’s not a big team and it seems that they have got miles too much that they can’t keep up.

“In my ward, Southern Housing have been trying for a number of years to get planning permission for Cavendish Place for essential repairs. The building’s falling apart. One floor is completely falling in and there’s still people living in the building.

“There are props holding up on of the bay windows – one of the residents is on crutches and has to negotiate his way around the scaffolding.

“They need to do some pretty major work and need planning permission for that and they have tried and tried and it’s just taking forever.

“My concern is that they council is just cut too far. We’re down to the bone and we have got £26m of cuts next year and another £100m in the next four years. It’s just crazy.”

The outstanding Cavendish Place planning application was finally approved last week, more than 14 weeks after it was first received on 21 April.

And Paul Burgess, director of Brighton based consultancy Lewis and Co Planning said while he did not blame the staff, the delays were holding up projects.

He said: “As planning consultants we represent many of the developers and businesses in the city. We currently have a high number of overdue planning applications which are potentially holding up building projects.

“However, we have some sympathy with the City Council planning department given that it is under resourced to deal with the number of applications submitted.”

But a council spokesman said new staff were being recruited to help plug the planning gap.

He said: “Following some staff turnover our planning service has recruited some new staff to increase output and the team’s ability to determine applications faster.

“The new staff start this month, but it will take a few weeks before they are able to operate at full capacity. With this in mind the following arrangements will be in place until the end of September:

  • Our telephone duty lines will be open for three hours from 9.30am to 12.30 week days, an increase of a half an hour daily.
  • Case officers will be available by telephone as normal after 2pm on a daily basis to discuss live cases only. They will not be able to offer pre-application advice.
  • Case officers will not be able to enter into lengthy correspondence about applications with applicants/agents.
  • We will not be able to continue our 20 minute verbal appointment service at Hove Town Hall. If you have an appointment already in our diary, we will meet with you.
  • We will continue to offer a full pre-application advice service on major schemes (above 10 house and greater than 1000 sq. m floor space).”
  1. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Applications that continue beyind the 8 wk msrk – or 12 wks for bigger apps – do so by agreement between the planners and the applicants.

    In my experience it is because applicants still have work to provide. Few applications are submitted fully formed and information-complete. Simetimes revisions are needed alobg the way.

    Sometimes wicked gamesmanship stops progress as applicants seek to get a consent with most of the work still not provided as they want it left as a Condition. Motives for that range from dirty tricks through incompetencec to a wish to bypass the pesky public consultation process.

    It is grossly unfair to speak of schemes/applications being “held up” by the planning dept. It is a two-way process and if people just get a refusal from now on instead of requests for clarifications, patient waiting for provision of all the needed info, etc SO BE IT.

    I just hope inappropriate, disastrous consents fo not get made following inappropriate bullying.

    Planning is a tool of ordering that should prevent problems and blighted areas, unliveable beehives and battery cages for humans as well as outsize monstrosities that destroy pre-existing llight levels for tiny homes, etc.

    There is more ruthlessness in people putting themselves first for maximum profits than people realise. Planning application work is the battlefield where territory is just grabbed by these thugs and where most of the public fear to go to engage them.

    Care about quality of life, rnvironment and buildings? Engage!

  2. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Unlike other places, the Planning Dept in Hove and Brighton gives much free advice in advance of an Application to ensure it has legs (and so does not waste everybody’s time and money). This is being revised to apply only to private Applications as it was abused by commercial ones (such as the appalling one by Hove Station which did not get submitted in the end). People do not work in Planning to get rich.

  3. Bilbo Bags Reply

    Which other authorities have had to announce similar measures; none that I am aware of.

    This is pretty dramatic and a diabolical indictment of the planner auhtority.

    Clean sweep?

  4. Dug Mahilzin Reply

    Without the planning dept, Brighton and Hove would be full of building disasters, like the i360, Sussex Heights (a tower block at sea level. Really?) , Moulsecoombe, Churchill square (which should be a park), every Edwardian terraced house in Kemptown which has been chopped into flats and studios……Brighton College’s ongoing space-age development within their own conservation area; the very same conservation area which prevents house owners from double glazing their windows.
    The council doesn’t need sympathy, it needs to work for those it is meant to serve.
    Ps. As the council fronted £40 million of tax payers money to a bankrupt husband-wife company for the i360, it can organise a whip around for my loft extension too. It’ll be a few pennies increase on everyone’s council taxes.

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