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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 2nd November, 2011

 

Report for the Cabinet Member for Planning and Transportation

 

Welsh Government Consultation Document - Improving the Planning Appeal Process

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             The purpose of this report is to inform Cabinet of a recent consultation document issued by the Welsh Government entitled Improving the Planning Appeal Process, and to seek Cabinet’s approval for the consultation response to that document (attached at Appendix A).

Recommendations

1.             That Cabinet approves the response to the Consultation Document to be sent to the Welsh Government as attached in Annex A of the Consultation Document.

2.             That a copy of the report be forwarded to Planning Committee for information purposes.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To enable the Council to respond to the recent consultation issued by the Welsh Government entitled Improving the Planning Appeal Process.

2.             To inform Planning Committee of the response to the consultation.

Background

2.             This consultation document puts forward proposals for various changes to the planning appeals system in Wales. The changes are designed to make the appeal process more proportionate, cost effective and responsive to applicants and appellants needs.

3.             The main changes on which views are sought are:

·               introducing a quicker, simpler system for householder appeals

·               the appeal method for each case to be decided on the basis of published indicative criteria

·               extending the costs regime to written representation planning appeals

·               introducing a simple procedure for correcting errors in appeal decisions

·               changing the current arrangements for payment of enforcement application fees

·               requiring that Statements of Common Ground are submitted earlier in the appeals process

·               introducing a formal process and guidance for undertaking bespoke time tables for complex inquiries.

4.             The Welsh Government has advised that they have had regard to changes which have already been implemented in England in some of these areas, and where impacts can be judged. However, the WG has stated that it is important that any changes introduced are appropriate for Wales.  The content of the draft guidance and a structured response questionnaire is provided. The proposed response on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council is attached as part of Appendix A.  (Annex A)

Relevant Issues and Options

5.             In most part, the consultation endorses the approach that the Council has undertaken for the last 12 months when it was selected to take part in a pilot scheme for introducing a quicker, simpler system for householder appeals.

6.             The other key changes proposed, include, the appeal method for each case being decided by the Inspectorate, extending the costs regime to written representation planning appeals, introducing a simple procedure for correcting errors in appeal decisions and introducing a formal process and guidance for undertaking bespoke time tables for complex Inquiries. These are to be welcomed in streamlining the process.

7.             Changing the current arrangements for payment of enforcement application fees to ensure that the whole fee for an enforcement appeal under Ground A will now be retained by a Council is also a positive step, as it reflects the work involved in dealing with such appeals by the Council.

8.             There are nevertheless certain points in the consultation which do raise some concerns.  Firstly, while supporting the principle of the fast track householder appeals system, it is considered that some of the timescales imposed on the Council for the submission of documentation to the Inspectorate are unrealistic (5 days) and that given the level of work this can entail, including the scanning of documentation, a timescale of 10 working days would be more appropriate.

9.             The second concern is in respect of the submission of statements of common ground.  Rule 14 of the Town and Country Planning (Inquiries Procedure)(Wales) Rules 2003 requires the local planning authority and applicant/appellant to prepare an agreed statement of common ground and submit it to the Planning Inspectorate, not less than 4 weeks before the date fixed for holding the Inquiry.

10.        This four week deadline is the same for the submission of written proofs of evidence. The WG consultation suggests that the statement should be submitted earlier than the above date.  However if it is required that Statements of Common Ground are to be submitted earlier in the appeals process, it is considered that it could lead to less statements of common ground being agreed or the documents themselves having little value due to the time pressures involved.  Moreover the preparation of evidence for the written proofs of evidence and its submission by both parties can lead to Councils and the appellants finding common ground and it is considered that the deadline for the submission of such a statement should be after the submission of the proofs of evidence and not before.

11.        Further to the above the Council is generally concerned at the WGs conclusion as to why SOCG are not submitted. Often no common ground can be found and it is not until councils and appellants have gone through the process of the preparation of evidence that any common ground becomes apparent.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

12.        None arising directly out of this report.  The Consultation Proposals, if implemented do not place any additional resource burdens upon the Council as Local Planning Authority.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        None arising out of this report. The guidance is for information only and does not place any additional statutory burdens upon the Council as Local Planning Authority.

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        None arising out of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

15.        None arising out of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        The progression of appeals links to the corporate objectives of Regeneration and the Environment.

Policy Framework and Budget

17.        This report is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

18.        No Ward Member consultation has been undertaken as the report has implications for the Vale as a whole rather than specific wards.  Consultation has been undertaken with the representatives of the relevant service areas.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

19.        Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Marcus Goldsworthy - Operational Manager Development Control - Tel: 01446 704661.

 

Officers Consulted

Director of Finance, ICT and Property

Legal Services - Committee Reports

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick - Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration.

 

 

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