Planning department speed under the spotlight

SLOW decision-making has left Worthing Borough Council’s planning department on the verge of slipping into special measures, according to figures released by the Government.

Worthing is just one of three councils that determined fewer than 30 per cent of major planning applications within 13 weeks in the two-year period between July 2011 and July 2013.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: “Slow planning decisions are bad for communities and business and delay much needed investment in the homes, jobs and facilities that people want and need. Developers and communities investing time and energy in a project should understandably have confidence their application will be processed in a timely fashion.

“By focussing the spotlight on performance we have seen it improve dramatically. The deterrent of designation is working.”

The council is currently in the process of verifying the DCLG’s figures and a decision on the fate of the planning department should be made before the end of October.

Cllr Bryan Turner, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “I don’t think Mr Pickles criteria really reflects what is going on in Worthing. For our combined planning service it’s illogical.””

If a local authority is designated as under performing, developers can choose to submit planning applications for major developments to the planning inspectorate for determination instead of the council.