Where have the planners gone?
I have a client who owns a property in the Borough of Oadby & Wigston (South Leicester). Of the aspects I needed to research was the planning history of the property, ascertain if everything has the relevant planning consent and explore alternative uses. In the vast majority of cases this isn't an onerous task. In this case it was a completely different story.
In the first instance I searched their web site, a couple of permisions were listed but no documents were availabale. I rang them and the firtst thing I discovered is that the case officer for the area is part time working 3 days a week. Having made contact I then discover that the authority don't hold any documents. They have all been sent to a 3rd party company for scanning with no timeframe for their return. There are no planning files available to inspect.
I then ring a few more times and it took a week to get to speak to someone. It was then that I was really enlightended on how they work.
It transpires that the Borough deceided that they don't require a full time planning team. All three (yes there are only three) planning staff are part time. They have limited support. They don't have any documents or history available to them. They can only allowed to meet if it is on the basis of "pre application advice" and therefore having paid a fee. In my case whilst the lady I spoke to was very helpful she admitted there was little she could do. About the only thing I can do in this case is submit an application for a Certificate of Lawful Development.
Whilst chatting I did ask her how they would deal with a major residential application like a large residential scheme. Short answer the applicant would need to be very patient!!
I felt very sorry for them. They are professional planners and having to manage the day to day planning enquiries and process applications. It can't be right that funding has been cut to the bone and expect the planning team to deliver an acceptable service. I guess it was all too easy to cut the budget.