Council planning chief: We need to get the key decisions right

A PLANNING chief says it is more important to get a key decision right than be slaves to deadlines after planners spent 45 weeks on a single application.

At least 60 per cent of major planning applications are supposed to be determined within 13 weeks, however Worcester City Council planners managed this six out of 11 times (54.5 per cent) between April and December last year.

In the April to June quarter, the city council only approved a quarter of major applications – one out of four – on time.

In the last quarter – ending in December – three of four major applications missed the deadline. They included a large extension at Nunnery Wood High School, Spetchley Road, Worcester which was decided a week later after planners called it in.

Other applications included a four-storey science block of eight classrooms with prep rooms and a lecture theatre at Worcester Sixth Form College, also in Spetchley Road. That was determined in 36 weeks.

The development of University Park, Bromyard Road, Worcester, was also delayed due to negotiation of the section 106 agreement, a windfall cash bonus given by a developer to a council in return for planning permission. This was determined in 45 weeks.

Paul O’Connor, development services manager, said they were focused on the outcome as well as meeting the deadline.

He said: “Members of the committee who have been with us some time will recall the date when we slavishly adhered to this particular target (13 weeks), whether applications were approved or refused.

“The headline gives the impression of poor performance but I’m satisfied the right things have been done on those applications.” He said the headteacher of Nunnery Wood had been pleased with the decision, even though the planning deadline was missed.

He said in his report, delivered at the planning committee at Worcester Guildhall, that work to an appropriate standard was the most important thing.

Mr O’Connor also said they were speeding up the section 106 agreements so they were agreed and signed far earlier.

Planners approved 63 of 69 minor applications (91.3 per cent) within 13 weeks between April and December, well above the national 60 per cent minimum.

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