Technical Notes 2021, Issue 26 - Planning and Building Standards - Performance and Site Visits

Report by: 
Thomas Glen, Depute Chief Executive - Place, Neighbourhood & Corporate Assets
TN Number: 
026-21
Subject: 
Planning and Building Standards – Performance and Site Visits.
Responsible Officer: 
Heather Holland, Executive Officer – Land Planning & Development
Publication: 
This Technical Note will be published on the Council’s website following circulation to Member. Its contents may be disclosed or shared outwith the Council.
Details: 
This Technical Note has been provided following a question at the Special Meeting of Council on 18 March 2021 in relation to Planning and Building Standards – Performance and Site Visits. Page 143 of report CE/01/21 Strategic Planning and Performance – Business and Improvement Plans 2021-2024 provided details of the proposed quarterly indicators for the Land Planning and Development Service for 2021/22. In order to benchmark, performance for 2019/20 was provided as the most recent full year of data available. This highlighted that in 2019/20 the Service was performing below the annual target in both ‘Average time (weeks) to deal with major development applications’ and ‘Average time taken to respond to building warrant applications (working days)’. It should be noted that performance reporting for year end 2020/21 is due to go to the Council meeting on 17 June 2021.
 
The Council as Planning Authority does not receive a large number of major planning applications as a proportion of the total number of applications received. Major applications by their nature are often more complex and more often than not require the drafting of necessary legal agreements.
 
Following restructuring and a successful recruitment drive during 2019/20, significant improvement in performance started in Q4 2019-20 for Building Standards and this trend continued into 20/21.
 
Reporting Period Reporting quarter dates Average time to respond to applications
Q4 – 2019-20 01.01.2019 – 31.03.2020 14.76
Q1 – 2020-21 01.04.2020 – 30.06.2020 14.20
Q2 – 2020-21 01.07.2020 – 30.09.2020 16.58
Q3 – 2020-21 01.10.2020 – 31.12.2020 19.37
Q4 – 2020-21 01.01.2021 – 31.03.2021 (to date) 19.89
 
There is has been no discernible negative impact on Building Standards response rates as a result of the pandemic although. From the table noted above the average days to respond to applications for Building Warrants did increase for later quarters, however this coincided with the ability for Building Standards staff to recommence with site visit work. In addition, Building Standards received notification in December 2020 that the National Customer Satisfaction rating has increased from 4.8 to 6.9.
 
Elected Members queried site visit protocols as a result of the pandemic and any link to performance as a result. In the early weeks of lockdown in March/April 2020, both the Planning and Building Standards Services had to establish some businesses continuity measures, in particular in relation to neighbour notification processes. This did result in applications being stalled due to the restrictions in place. Please refer to Appendix 1 which shows the impact of restricted working practices during the first 8 weeks of the pandemic for both Planning and Building Standards. During this period the service was unable to receive paper mail which could have included representations, print off neighbour notification letter, print site notices or carry out any site visits. Planning Board had also been cancelled over this period. Officers did continue to assess planning applications however; any planning application which had the 21-day minimum neighbour notification period expiring on or after 16th March were not decided. This was to ensure no paper representations were missed which might be relevant in the consideration of the application. Once access to paper mail was restored, any representations were collated and the application decided or referred to Planning Board if necessary. Planning applications, which did not meet the terms of the Scheme of Delegation and required a Planning Board decision, were put on hold until a date was available. Following the appropriate risk assessments being put in place solo site visits recommenced on 24 July 2020 for both Planning and Building Standards Officers where alternative evidence was not appropriate. This protocol remains in operation and both services are running almost business as usual levels of service. The main exception to this is the continued avoidance of accompanied Planning Board and Local Review Body site visits. Officers continue to review this position as Government guidance emerges.
 
Action Taken:
 
Officers continue to review the latest Government Guidance in the context of service delivery. Planning Board and LRB Site Visits will be re-introduced according to corporate risk assessment conclusions.
 

Appendix 1

Planning applications received
Week Number of applications received
1 - 2 March to 8 March 2020 18
2 - 9 March to 15 March 2020 32
3 - 16 March to 22 March 2020 17
4 - 23 March to 29 March 2020 10
5 - 30 March to 5 April 2020 11
6 - 6 April to 12 April 2020 11
7 - 13 April to 19 April 2020 8
8 - 20 April to 26 April 2020 17

Planning applications received

Applications stalled due to restrictions on working practices:

Reason for delay Number

Unable to check for paper representations*

19

Requires site visit

15

Unable to neighbour notify and/or post site notice

63

Requires Board decision

7

* This is applications which would otherwise have been ready to decide.  There are others in the system being assessed which will have this issue but have not yet reached determination stage.

Building warrants received
Week Number of applications received
1- 2 March to 8 March 2020 19
2 - 9 March to 25 March 2020 25
3 - 16 March to 22 March 2020 14
4 - 23 March to 29 March 2020 20
5 - 30 March to 5 April 2020 19
6 - 6 April  to 12 April 2020 18
7 - 13 April to 19 April 2020 7
8 - 20 April to 26 April 2020 17
9 - 27 April to 3 May 2020 17

 

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