Letter: Delays inspire lack of confidence

I read with interest your case study on how Camden Council is handling development management (See related articles).

I feel bemused at the disconnect between the laudable sentiments expressed by the council’s senior planning officer, John Diver, and the reality of having applications dealt with by Camden officers under their brave new world of picking their own cases when they have spare capacity.

This system may benefit the officers, but does not provide applicants with confidence in the planning process as alleged by Diver.

I noted Alex Bushell’s more realistic, and some might say cynical, assessment that "the driver was the financial situation", though he added "but also providing a good service"… an afterthought perhaps. In my opinion, the borough is falling well short of the desired outcome of providing a good service, when even relatively straightforward applications are not "picked up" for three to four weeks after they have been received by the council.

Recent enquiries on a couple of applications elicited the response that there is a backlog and officers are now picking up applications submitted in mid to late August. I am not referring to major applications, rather relatively straightforward submissions often of the householder type. I seem to recall that the Development Management Procedure Order requires local planning authorities to validate applications within two weeks of receipt – a quaintly old fashioned idea, it would seem.

But there again, maybe Camden has taken a leaf out of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) validation procedures. PINS applies a similar approach, with no start letters issued until a "suitable" Inspector is available. Regrettably, in the London context at least, delays in validation and the processing of planning applications are definitely on the up.

To be fair, there are a number of local planning authorities in the South East and elsewhere which deal with validation (or non-validation) efficiently and effectively, possibly because they have a system and the resources in place to do so.

One radical solution could be to employ some more officers with both experience, common sense and a genuine desire to deal with validation expeditiously.

George Vasdekys, Salisbury Jones Planning

Please submit your letters by emailing planning@haymarket.com

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