An inspection report published last week says that the service has been transformed. It is now rated fair with promising prospects for improvement.
A previous report three years ago found that the whole service was in disarray.
The latest report finds that the speed of determining planning applications has improved and that residents' needs are placed "at the centre of planning policies". Progress is being made on an updated policy framework, it adds.
"We are impressed with the turnaround and our assessment is that progress is likely to continue," said Audit Commission senior manager Jon Hayes.
"The department has increased its permanent staff and appointed staff specifically to improve relations with communities."
Three years ago problems included application backlogs and policy not being followed through. "The council, supported by the ODPM, put in place a tough, but achievable, recovery plan," the report notes.
This has brought about "a steady and rapid improvement" in the efficiency of the planning application process, it states.
The full report can be viewed via www.PlanningResource.co.uk.