Issue - meetings

Issue - meetings

Planning and Regulatory Services improvement plan

Meeting: 14/06/2017 - Scrutiny Committee (Item 9)

9 Planning and Regulatory Services improvement plan pdf icon PDF 118 KB



Background Information

The Scrutiny Committee commissioned a report from the Head of Planning, Sustainable Development and Regulatory Services on the progress of her service improvement plan.  The Committee previously considered a progress update in June 2016.

Why is it on the agenda?

For the Scrutiny Committee to consider the service improvement plan for Planning and Regulatory Services.  The Committee is asked to note and comment on the report and may also wish to agree recommendations to put to the City Executive Board on 18 July 2017.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory;

·         Patsy Dell, Head of Planning, Sustainable Development and Regulatory Services.




Additional documents:


The Head of Planning and Regulatory introduced the report and answered questions. She highlighted the very positive improvements for the service area over the past year including the introduction of career grades, the recruitment of good staff and five apprentices who were proving to be an asset to the service.


Councillor Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services, also answered questions.


The Committee noted in answer to questions:

1.    The service had invested in the introduction of career grades, apprenticeships and improved recruitment and retention. The vacancy rate was now much lower and remaining vacancies were being filled.

2.    The number of complaints about customer service had reduced.

3.    Building control provided a statutory service and sought work in competition with the private sector, successfully bidding for a number of large contracts. The changes to recruitment and retention polices would hopefully improve the service’s ability to recruit permanent staff, as there was a shortage of suitable skilled staff and a competitive recruitment market.

4.    Enforcement action was taken when breaches were brought to the service’s attention, in line with usual practice across the country. It was not possible to provide a proactive inspection and enforcement service unless this was resourced.

5.    The ability to enforce planning permission had to be balanced against the resources this involved, and against the reasonable expectation that developers would comply with their permissions and conditions. There was an added complication with an inspection regime that developments can start at any point within the three-year permission period. Reported breaches were taken seriously, and action taken.

6.    A risk-based approach was taken to pro-actively inspecting particularly sensitive or controversial works on listed buildings and conservation areas, but there were strong incentives to carry the work out correctly given the liabilities if this was sub-standard.

7.    There was a project to review the list of requirements to be met before an application was accepted. This would improve the quality and completeness of applications before submission – at present only half of applications provided information to the required standard. Better quality and complete applications would reduce the workload on staff; the number of conditions required; the time taken to issue permission; and the work involved for both parties in discharging conditions. There was a related project reviewing all standard conditions to ensure these were adequate and comprehensive.

8.    The recent neighbourhood planning bill set out changes to the pre-commencement conditions that could be applied.

9.    The contract for the Oxford Design Review Panel had ended and was under review. A design panel was part of a quality planning process for the city and the current providers were the national lead.

10. The key indicators for performance were those set by government: currently over a rolling 24-month period 70% of non-major applications had to be determined within the time limits.  Internal targets to exceed these could be set if appropriate.


The Committee asked for information about the numbers of complaints and why 2015/16 was chosen as a baseline.


The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9