THE NEW head of planning at Pembrokeshire County Council wants the backlog of applications cleared in the next 12 months.
Nicola Gandy, who took on the top planning job in August after six years at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, told members of the services overview and scrutiny committee about her vision for the service in the short term.
Previous reviews of the planning service have highlighted staff and budget reductions, the covid-19 pandemic and phosphates issues as the “main contributor to the downward trajectory of planning performance.”
With increased funding, vacancies filled, and additional posts created the service is now looking a “more positive future” a report to the committee on September 26 states.
Ms Gandy said that all energy will is being put “into looking forward and improving performance” adding although it will take longer to deal with enforcement issues – where there are 418 live cases – she aimed to the clear the application back log in 12 months.
Of the 418 enforcement cases there are 222 that are older than 2021 but “given the capacity issues experienced in the enforcement service over the last few years it is unsurprising that the backlog is so high.”
There are currently 319 live planning applications, the committee report sates, 59 of which date back to 202 and 110 are from 2021 and while the average time to determine applications will increase it will allow for a focus on reducing those waiting more than eight weeks.
Members heard there is also a backlog in pre-application cases, with 170 outstanding and the planning service received 24 formal complaints during 2021/22, with two cases ongoing.
There were 99 affordable homes provided in that time and more than £1.5million in planning obligations secured.
Councillors raised concerns about enforcement and the need for stronger action to be take not discourage people from relying on retrospective planning applications, while Cllr Steve Alderman highlighted a need for greater support when it came to dealing with larger, nationally significant, applications.