Council’s planning service gets thumbs up in advisory service review

Hastings Borough Council’s planners are performing to a high standard with a low number of appeals and a good success record according to the Planning Advisory Service.

HBC’s planning service was recently reviewed by the Planning Advisory Service and they were very positive about the planning service HBC provides and considers it to be ‘running well’. 

screen shot 2019-01-11 at 10.03.12The advisory service review noted the difficultly in recruiting staff which is resulting in  high workloads, the revioew says: “The team is rightly proud of the efforts they have made to maintain a good level of service…. They should take credit for getting things done quickly, their recovery from a poor spell and for their current performance levels.”

Other positive aspects highlighted by the review included:

  • Keeping in touch with people
  • Discussing applications with applicants and agents to secure a positive outcome
  • Using the 21 day letter to outline issues early in the process
  • Working efficiently – HBC uses uses a specialist computer system to help the processing of applications
  • Clear work processes

The report suggested that areas for improvement included:

  • Ensuring the capacity of the team is maintained.
  • Presenting Council schemes to councillors before planning applications are made,

The review’s conclusion notes the enthusiasm of the staff and their willingness to engage with and deliver a good service to their customers.

The report can be read in full on the council website.

Have you had recent experience of Hastings Borough Council’s planning department? Do you agree with the outcome of the review? Comment below or email your experiences to tellmeyourstory@hastingsinfocus.co.uk

5 thoughts on “Council’s planning service gets thumbs up in advisory service review

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  1. What!!! As Victor Meldrew would say – ‘I don’t believe it’ – we would need to see the entire report before we could make detailed comment but suffice to say this has to be a joke.
    Planning administration in this town is one of the most appalling issues encountered by residents..The council do not listen to residents concerns, They process planning applications which are full of flaws and the reason why there have been so few Appeals is because they pass anything and everything to the detriment of our town.

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  2. According to government figures for the 24 months to the end of December 2018 Hastings Borough Council is ranked 320th out of 339 Local Planning Authorities in England for major planning application decision performance with 17.1% of decisions made within 13 weeks compared to 31.8% for all English Local Planning Authorities.

    Hardly a cause for celebration and down from 29.5% in the 24 months to the end of December 2016 (compared to 45.7% for all English Local Planning Authorities for the same period, giving Hastings a national rank of 204th out of 339 so it has dropped 116 places in two years).

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  3. I recall that HBC spun a previous PAS review beyond all recognition in 2015. That time HBC falsely claimed that they were in the “Top 10″ planning departments in the country. Previous PAS reviews have been imblanced in that they interviewed selective local groups and councillors. For example a review in 2015 only interviewed Labour councillors and did not interview any groups concerned with planning issues.

    This review seems to be purely internal. There has been no consultations with councillors, the public or groups that are concerned with planning issues. The review has been spun – national figures show that Planning’s performance is well below the National average. The report highlights 9 areas of concern. Our planning department remains unreformed and unaccountable.

    The review says:

    ” Public Perception and Customer Service: The service is still feeling the effects of earlier problems handling the Rocklands application. Staff are sensitive to the level of scrutiny by some in the community and the impact of social media on their work. ”

    Is it any surprise following the disastrous loss of the Glen that Planning find themselves under scrutiny? Rather than changing the way they work Planning have developed a bunker mentality and sought to close down all channels. HBC has prevented the release of any reports concerning Rocklands and the landslip. Councillors refuse to correspond or meet with campaigners. HBC seek to vilify campaigners with false allegations of harassment and defamation. HBC regularly misuse Freedom of Information regulations to prevent the release of any information.

    Following the Rocklands debacle Cabinet approved an action plan to prevent a repeat of the mistakes made. Sadly the action plan has not been implemented and many of the problems that characterised the Rocklands disaster are still in place. The Bahcheli report recommended that Planning become more responsive to public concerns. Instead we have seen changes to the constitution that further reduce accountability , restrictions on what applications can go to the planning committee , the loss of notification letters and the introduction of fees. Planning remains unreformed and unaccountable.

    If Planning has taken action to resolve the issues raised by the Rocklands affair then there would be no need for scrutiny. If Planning did things correctly and followed proper process why would they be concerned about public scrutiny? Since the Rocklands debacle Planning have continued to misuse proper planning processes. The abuse of minor amendments allowed developers to avoid affordable housing contributions and avoid planning fees.being just one example.

    The review can be read here:
    https://www.hastings.gov.uk/content/planning/planning_news/pdfs/planning_advisory_service_report_on_Hastings_planning_services.pdf

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  4. Having now read this report in its entirety it is very clear that this should not be described as a ‘thumbs up’ for this council. As a commentator notes there are 9 areas of concern which the consultatnt has highlighted and these 9 sections illustrate precisely the serious problems residents have to contend with on a regular basis.
    One very interesting recomendation made by the author of this report suggests that planning committee members should receive training on how to make good decisions. How very appropriate – how many times have we witnessed members of the planning committee seemingly confused with planning legislation and therefore having to rely on council staff for guidance which may not be in line with public opinion. The overriding view on this issue does suggest that planning committee members are not qualified to satisfactorily challenge council officers over complex planning applications. Examples of this can be found in the recent Hastings Pier applications where despite a plethora of objections and evidence that Listed Building and Conservation laws have been ignored, the planning committee nevertheless were advised to consent to these applications.

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  5. Having perused this report, I do have some difficulty in perceiving it is giving this department a “thumbs up” too. There are several recommendations that needs t be executed. There is an apparent staffing issue. Something that doe snot surprise me as you could see by the new names appearing on applications, there had been quite and exodus of people who had been there for several years. And mention in the report of the wake created by the Rocklands debacle.

    Now I can see the council blaming those out there who raised issue after issue. Filled FOI’s, challenged the plethora of applications filed and of course raised hell about the landslip that we will never really know what the official cause of it was. But looking at what happened there is not something such as Rocket Science to see why that disaster took place. My point here is the councillors, the planning department et al, are surely to blame for their on stress on this issue. It is a pity this Martin Vink who wrote this report did not scrutinise just the way HBC handled Rocklands period.

    Another issue not observed in this report is the actual democracy behind the planning protocols for public involvement that has been drastically hammered by HBC and endorsed by the Labour doyen of the borough. These being:

    * No planning application notice letters sent out to residents. Now have to watch it for notices tied to
    lamp posts or go online and just search
    * Objectors speaking at committee on an application reduce to 3 minutes from 5 minutes
    * No notices in the local paper – now only published in the Hastings Independent a Labour paper that I
    doubt many will even know of its existence.
    * Number of objectors on an application raised to six to enable it to go to committee or it will be a
    decision.
    * Questions or inquiries about planning / developments can result in a £120 fee for the answer.

    These are major changes that should have been scrutinised and commented on.

    I do note the writer of this report citing how member training on help them make “good decisions.” Well I do believe you could write a dissertation on that alone.

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