Michael Gove: Calderdale Council steps up how it deals with planning applications after being threatened with Government intervention
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Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, wrote to the council earlier this year warning he would have to intervene if the planning department’s performance did not improve.
He said he had “significant” concerns about the council’s planning performance, saying it was “not good enough” and he was minded to “designate” the council.
Where a council is designated as underperforming, applicants have the option of bypassing their local authority and instead submit their planning applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate, who act on behalf of the Secretary of State, for determination.
But councillors have heard there has been a sustained improved performance.
The council’s planning lead, Richard Seaman, told scrutiny councillors significant progress had been made following funding agreed by the authority.
For January to March, 2023, the figure for non-major planning decisions completed on time was 90 per cent, and for April to June, 2023, 97 per cent – averaging 88 per cent over the nine-month period. The national target is a minimum of 70 per cent.
“Since April, our performance has continued to improve and exceeded targets by some distance,” said Mr Seaman.
This had been reported to Mr Gove in July and the council was awaiting further contact with his department, he said.
The council’s Place Scrutiny Board chairman, Coun Regan Dickenson (Con, Rastrick) asked where this left the council.
Mr Seaman said: “Ultimately we are waiting to hear – we have done what we have been asked to do, which is to sustain performance above the 70 per cent benchmark, and we have achieved that by a good margin.”
The board heard important staffing appointments had been made and use of technology had increased following the investment.
Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said the main complaint she received from constituents was that they had not had a response but the extra staff should help this.
Mr Seaman said there was still some distance to go in resetting the council’s customer services approach, including advice which could be offered to people on the council’s website, and this was one of things foremost in his mind.