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Letter: ‘More Needs to Be Done’ But GBC Planning is Improving

Published on: 23 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 25 Jun, 2022

From: Ramsey Nagaty

Guildford Greenbelt Group leader

In response to: Councils Planning Problems Still Not Resolved After More Than A Year Of Delays

The Guildford Borough Council (GBC) planning department has been struggling to cope with the increased workload arising as a result of a number of factors.

To mitigate the problem, GBC has spent considerably on additional staff including employment of temporary staff.

The latest report I saw stated that our main recruitment agency had difficulties in providing planning personnel, however the report did not go on to inform any solution in this respect.

The idea of farming out some of the workload to external planners, not familiar with GBC policies and potentially not aware of the locality, raises concerns. The GBC press announcement was a little vague as to the organisation(s) that may be appointed but one assumes they use fully qualified staff. I will monitor the use and work of the outside agency with interest.

If the increased workload is considered temporary, this is maybe a solution to take the strain off our existing permanent staff and help to reduce staff leaving due to the pressure of the work. There is a high turnover of staff within the department due in some respect to the use of temporary staff.

It may be appropriate to recruit more staff to allow greater flexibility in working practices but we would need a clear understanding of whether the work load will continue at this higher level going forward and if working from home increases or reduces productivity.

From my personal experience, I can testify to planning officers working evenings and weekends. It has been stated that GBC policy of requiring a minimum of working hours in the office is a deterrent to recruitment. Other councils will also be experiencing additional workloads for their planners, so competition for a limited pool of qualified planning officers is strong.

I think more needs to be done to resolve the issues and ensure we have an improved service and faster turn around of applications. However, I note that the planning deoartment is improving the turnaround of applications with more decisions on applications now coming through.

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