Agenda item

To receive an update on planning enforcement and local plans.

 

Contributors:

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement

DarranEggleton, Head of Planning Policy and Compliance

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement. The Cabinet Member presented an update on the council’s planning enforcement service and the progress on the Buckinghamshire Local Plan. The Council had adopted the Local Enforcement and Monitoring Plan in June 2020 and the planning enforcement service had adapted significantly to react during the pandemic. The pandemic had presented challenges due to a lack of simple face to face communication between officers as well as additional Covid safety measures in place at site inspections. The service had been working hard to deliver service improvements during the pandemic. The Planning & Environment Service was nearing the end of its management restructure and the team was halfway through its service review having recently completed its discovery phase. The team had received 1,278 new reports of alleged planning breaches during the first three quarters of 2021/22 which was similar to the combined cases across the five legacy authorities over the past two years. Since April 2020, the team had increased the number of formal actions taken against breaches of planning control. 50 enforcements notices had been issued since vesting day. The team was focused on progressing cases swiftly and taking decisions as early as possible in the enforcement process. The Cabinet Member encouraged Parishes, Members and residents to report alleged breaches as soon as possible so that the service could react accordingly. Some recent successful enforcement cases were highlighted which included cases at Nash Park, Great Missenden and Iver.

 

A consultation for further modifications to the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) had closed on 9 February. Four further days of hearings would be held by the Examination Inspector 13 – 16 April. It was hoped that, subject to the Inspector’s final report, the VALP would be adopted by Summer 2021. The Buckinghamshire Local Plan for the whole Council area was in its early stages. The Local Development Scheme had been agreed and consultation on the Statement of Community Involvement was currently taking place. A call for brownfield sites was also currently underway. A number of Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) had been prepared to provide more detailed guidance on implementing specific proposals and policies in local plans. The report highlighted particular SPDs such as Biodiversity Accounting, Hollands Farm and Princes Risborough Expansion. Additionally, the Council had submitted a robust response to the Government’s Planning White Paper consultation and MHCLG was working through the consultation responses they had received.

 

After the Cabinet Member’s update, the Committee raised the following points:-

 

·         A Member commented that it would be useful for all Councillors to be briefed on all types of possible enforcement action and notices that could be carried out by the service. There were plans for enforcement to be included as part of Member induction following elections in May.

·         The Planning Committees received updates regarding enforcement activity at their public meetings. Enforcement updates to ward Members would be considered as part of the service review.

·         The enforcement service had the resource and intention to follow through complex cases to resolution with the recent case of waste clear up at Nash Park field being an example of this. Regarding staffing, the service had a new Enforcement Manager and was recruiting two Team Leaders. The service currently had two Technicians (one vacancy), 11 officers and 1 Principal (0.8 vacancy). It was expected that the team would be fully staffed by late Spring/early Summer. The service did not second staff from other areas but there was a cross council taskforce to discuss cases (e.g. advice from Legal or Waste).

·         Land ownership issues were not within the remit of the enforcement service.

·         One Member suggested utilizing an enforcement app for reporting that would work similarly to the Transport for Bucks ‘Fix My Street’. The Cabinet Member advised that IT would have a significant role in the service improvement plan and development of reporting tools would be considered.

·         The Cabinet Member was aware of concerns about the impact that new developments had on existing nearby pavements and highways.  The Head of Planning Policy and Compliance, Darran Eggleton, advised that it was important that planning conditions were carefully worded to enable proper enforcement.

·         One Member highlighted that Local Plans took considerable time to implement which risked the finalized plan becoming outdated. The service did aspire to deliver a future proofed Buckinghamshire Plan and would consider how the overarching policy framework would link in with Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) to enable some flexibility to respond to changes e.g. environmental standards.  

·         One Member suggested that access to Community Infrastructure Levy (CILs) should be considered by the Committee at a future meeting. The Cabinet Member advised that CILs would be reviewed and updated as part of the new Buckinghamshire Plan. The Government White Paper also referred to a National Infrastructure Levy which the Council was awaiting further information on.

·         The Policy team was well resourced and working on the local plan with experienced staff from all the legacy councils.

 

The Chairman thanked the Cabinet Member and officers for attending the meeting and providing the update.

 

 

Supporting documents: