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Planning Backlog Stable As Applications Received ‘Drop From Peak’

Published on: 13 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 15 Jan, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

The backlog of planning applications being processed by GBC is reported to be stable following councillors’ dissatisfaction in October 2021 when there was an increasing number of up to 750 applications waiting to be decided.

Guildford Borough Council’s Millmead offices

See Planning Backlog Increases As Councillor Says “It’s A Mess”

GBC said the number of applications being received had dropped from the peak in March and April but “are still higher than the trend pre-pandemic”.

Validation of the applications is said to have been cut to “two to three weeks” compared to between “five and six weeks” in October.

Lead for development management, Tom Hunt

This has brought the number of applications waiting validation by the GBC planning team down from 350 in October to around 170.

The council say they are recruiting for staff to fill current vacancies. Temporary staff are being used in the interim.

But no date has been given for the widely valued pre-application service to resume. GBC said: “We are planning to re-launch soon”.

In October, leader of the council Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) said: “The extra cost of dealing with the increase in applications, as well as the impact of the pandemic which has seen us lose a large percentage of our income from parking and leisure services, has caused a predicted overspend for 2021-22 of £3 million.

Lead for development management Tom Hunt (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “With increased demand for planning applications, some delays are inevitable and meant we have not been able to provide our usual good level of service.  I am disappointed by this, and I understand how difficult it is for those waiting for us to process their applications.

“Last year we temporarily suspended our pre-application service to help us meet the demand, and through the team’s hard work, we are getting back on track. We are meeting the challenges of the pandemic in substantially constrained financial circumstances.

“We are always looking at new ways to improve our throughput, such as automating some processes to speed up determination. We have bid into the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for funds to support this and other initiatives, and are hopeful of receiving some funding later this month.”

Brian Creese

Guildford Labour Party chair Brian Creese said: “From our recent experience of talking to residents it seems that it is not just the Planning Department which is currently providing a poor service.

“We have received a litany of complaints about slow and poor service from the council and particularly the difficulty in actually getting through to talk to anyone.

“While we cannot be sure Future Guildford is the cause of this, it does seem likely. This administration (and the last) were quick to seek praise for its cost-cutting initiative, but seems to have failed to explain to residents the downside.”

We also asked the Guildford Conservative Association and GGG for comment.

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