This report is presented to the Planning Committee informing Members on current planning performance and the Local Plan. The report covers the period from 1 April to 30 June 2023.
The Committee received a report setting out performance for the period 1 April 2023 to 30 June 2023.
The Chief Planning Officer explained that these figures were presented on a quarterly basis to show how his team and Members achieved their targets.
The Chief Planning Officer acknowledged that there had been a slight downturn in applications during this period compared to last year and hoped that would change in the next few months. He also clarified that as the Planning department was currently going through a staff restructuring process and carrying a number of vacancies, the reduction of applications was helpful while all the changes and recruitment were being implemented.
The Chief Planning Officer outlined the number of appeals and enforcement notices compared to the last quarter and how it had fluctuated. He explained that a larger number of appeals had been allowed over the last 6 months and the Planning Service were looking into the reasons for this.
The number of housing units being completed, since 2018, had significantly increased. Medway had a national target for delivering houses, however Medway do not build many houses itself and our influence was only through planning permissions. Despite the increase in units completed, Medway still had a deficit compared to our housing need as identified through the Governments Standard Methodology.
The Chief Planning Officer explained that the Enforcement Team was very small and had only one officer until recently when two more officers joined the team. It was very important that we had an enforcement process in place to ensure that appropriate enforcement action be taken where necessary to maintain the public faith in the planning process. However, he reminded Members that just because there was a breach did not mean that enforcement action should be taken. We should only take enforcement action if the works comprising the breach would be refused planning permission.
The Chief Planning Officer clarified the complaints process. Stage 1 was investigated within the service. At Stage 2 the complainant received a response from the Chief Executive and if required gave details on how to contact the Ombudsman if still unhappy.
A number of compliments had been received and were on page 100 of the report.
Members expressed their thanks to the Chief Planning Officer and his team for all their hard work, in difficult circumstances with the lack of resources, and acknowledged the amount of work that went in to produce the results shown.
The Chief Planning Officer clarified that changes to the building regulations addressed a number of climate change issues. Members discussed the fact that all new homes from 2025 could not have gas, they must have heat pumps. The Chief Planning Officer explained that prior to the Local Election a working group was set up and developers came in to discuss climate change and what they were doing to meet the new regulations. There was a large amount of work being done, particularly on energy efficiency which would not be a big issue with new builds but was certainly an issue with much of the older existing housing stock in Medway.
In response to a question, the Chief Planning Officer said that he could include the amount of planning permissions approved and the number of actual houses built in a future performance and that would also include the number of affordable and social housing units provided.
Following a question from a Member, the Chief Planning Officer confirmed that he could include in a future report, figures for units completed, compared to other Local Authorities. However, some context would need to be applied as other Authorities were smaller than Medway and some had much larger areas designated as either Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Committee noted the report and requested that the Chief Planning Officer
express the Committee’s appreciation for the levels of achievement to staff
within the Planning Service.