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Gwent councillors congratulate staff for being above the Welsh average

COUNCIL staff have been congratulated by Blaenau Gwent councillors, for being well above the Welsh average when it comes to the time it takes to decide planning applications.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s planning committee on Thursday, January 6, a report was presented outlining the planning department’s performance report from January to March 2021 compared with the other planning authorities in Wales.

Planning authorities are expected to decide planning applications in an eight-week period after they are submitted.

In Wales there are a total of 25 authorities responsible for planning applications.

These are all 22 county councils across Wales are responsible as well as the three National Parks authorities, which cover the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia.

Of these Blaenau Gwent was ranked joint seventh of 25, with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council topping the list with 100 per cent of applications done on time.

Gwynedd County Council in north-west Wales is at the bottom of the pile and only decided 40 per cent of their applications on time.

Neighbouring authorities Caerphilly were third, Torfaen joint seventh, Monmouthshire 11th, Powys 12th and Newport 19th.

Officer Steve Smith said: “This was published on the Welsh Government’s website on October 5 last year.”

“You can see that we decided 91 per cent of applications in time.

“This compares favourably to the Welsh average of 80 per cent and is pretty much in line with the trend over the previous five quarters.”

The report showed that, during 2020, Blaenau Gwent’s figures for each quarter were 93 percent 89 per cent , 87 per cent and 90 per cent.

Mr Smith told the committee that on average it takes 81 days from registration to decision.

Mr Smith also explained that 25 per cent of application brought in front of the committee see councillors vote against officers’ recommendations, compared to a Wales-wide average of seven per cent.

Planning committee chairman Cllr Denzil Hancock asked whether the report covered a time when the department had a “full complement of staff.”

Mr Smith added: “This was when we were struggling to keep frontline services and had staff members down with covid.

“Just about everyone’s performance dropped slightly, certainly in terms of the average number of days.”

He added that now the department was back to full strength: “we will be looking to bring that figure down

Cllr Lisa Winnett said: “I’d like to say a huge well done to the tea,

“In challenging times, having to deal with staff shortages, it’s a really good result.

Cllr Clive Meredith also wanted to extend a “well done” to Mr Smith and his team over a “very difficult 18 months.”

The report was noted by the committee.

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