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GBC Councillor Says Sorry For Planning Delays

Published on: 13 May, 2022
Updated on: 16 May, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

The lead borough councillor in charge of the planning in the borough, Tom Hunt (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), has apologised for the continuing problems in dealing with the huge numbers of applications received since Covid blaming the pandemic and difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.

The GBC planning department has been experiencing increased demand for over a year resulting in delays which the council has not yet been able to resolve.

Guildford Borough Council Offices at Millmead.

Cllr Hunt said he was “sorry that our residents have been experiencing delays with their planning applications” and that the council was “identifying other ways to speed up planning application decisions, processes, and communications”.

Cllr Tom Hunt

A reader, who did not wish to have his name published, told The Dragon of long delays and a “black hole” of communications with the planning department.

He said: “We placed an application in December last year, which wasn’t validated until early February. It’s impossible to speak to anyone in the planning department as, apparently, they’re all still working from home.

“Direct dial numbers no longer exist, all calls are diverted back to customer services, who are unable to advise, simply don’t answer or agree to pass on a message.

“To add insult to injury, we finally received an email last week saying “(named GBC officer) is the Planning Officer for your application. However, today is her last day as she is leaving the council. Her application will be reassigned to another officer in due course.

Twitter screenshots of complaints against GBC planning application progress.

The Dragon had asked for an update on progress including the number in the planning application backlog, the time being taken to validate applications, the numbers awaiting validation and when the pre-application service will resume.

The GBC response did not provide the details as requested but gave a statement from Cllr Hunt. He said: “We are sorry that our residents have been experiencing delays with their planning applications and understand how frustrating this is for them.

“We are working hard to put together an action plan to get through the backlog of planning applications which has built up following higher numbers of applications, difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff and the impact of the pandemic.

GBC Website – Planning Application Page

“We are identifying other ways to speed up planning application decisions, processes, and communications including using additional temporary resources. We are in the process of finalising the details.

“We will be offering our existing staff the option of working overtime and weekends to clear additional backlog applications. We will be enabling some staff to focus solely on getting decisions out to applicants.

“We have recently appointed a temporary team leader in the applications team. This post was made vacant when the previous post holder stepped up to act as head of service. We will be recruiting another team leader to strengthen support in our major application teams.  However, it is a challenging time to recruit planning staff because there is a huge demand nationally.

“The impact of this action plan will be closely monitored and we expect to see an improvement over the coming months. We are still receiving high levels of applications and must be realistic about the volume of work involved.”

See also:

Planning Backlog Stable As Applications Received Drop From Peak  (January 2022)

Planning Backlog Increases As Councillor Says “It’s A Mess” (October 2021)

Backlog Of Planning Applications Doubles At GBC (April 2021)

 

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