DEVELOPERS wanting to build in Bromsgrove will be able to by-pass the local planning system and have their applications decided directly by the Inspectorate in Bristol after a Government ruling.
It comes after a designation notice was served by the Department for Communities and Local Government on Bromsgrove District Council’s planning service because, according to Government targets, it is the joint slowest in the country at dealing with applications.
The authority lobbied against the action, but to no avail and now developers will be able to choose whether to work with district council planning officers or directly with the inspector in Bristol.
The cabinet has stressed communities will still be able to comment on applications made to the Inspectorate in the usual way, and local hearings will be held when needed to consider arguments in public.
The council’s portfolio holder for planning, Coun Kit Taylor, played down the Government’s action and said before the annuouncement was made, steps had already been taken to improve the planning department’s performance.
He said: “As we have said before and as we told the Government, this council is transforming its services to make them more efficient and effective, with our customer at the heart of everything we do.
“Planning is no exception and instead of worrying about arbitrary targets, we sat with our customers and robustly worked through their applications which resulted in a higher rate of approval rather than them going round and round in the system because of unresolved issues.
“This has led to brilliant feedback from our customers and I hope their experiences will mean that future applicants choose to work with our dedicated, experienced and committed team of planners.”
But Labour group leader Luke Mallett said – after Bromsgrove was named among the slowest at dealing with applications in the country – Government action was inevitable.
“This is the last thing Bromsgrove needs with applications for thousands of properties in the pipeline and a review of all the district’s green belt to find more building land now imminent.
“The bottom line is that this special measures status is the direct result of years of Conservative mismanagement of planning in Bromsgrove.
“The latest decision by the Conservative leadership to move all the planning officers to Redditch has only made things worse.
“Is it any wonder the Government have finally called time on a failing council and its planning pantomime?”
But Coun Taylor hit back and said: “I am not surprised this latest news has been jumped upon by the opposition at a time when they need all the votes they can get.
“Nor am I shocked at their misinformed responses as we are not in special measures as they claim which further demonstrates their sheer lack of knowledge of the planning process.”