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Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council outsourcing planning work to Belfast in face of backlog



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Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is outsourcing some of its planning work to Belfast to help deal with a significant backlog.

Restrictions imposed during the pandemic and an increase in applications received have resulted in a build-up of minor and householder applications, the council said.

This has been exacerbated by significant problems in the recruitment of planning experts, meaning the council has been forced to consult externally to work through the backlog.

The council is outsourcing some of its planning work to Belfast
The council is outsourcing some of its planning work to Belfast

The issue was raised in a Tadley Town Council meeting, where it was confirmed by borough councillor Kerri Carruthers (Con, Tadley & Pamber).

She said: “This is correct, and I only found out myself when talking to a planning officer with an Irish accent recently.

“We are using some consultants, if you like, elsewhere to pick up some of the planning work.

Kerri Carruthers said she only found out when she talked to a planning officer with an Irish accent.
Kerri Carruthers said she only found out when she talked to a planning officer with an Irish accent.

“The guy I’ve been dealing with has been absolutely fantastic, really helpful, but obviously he’s not a local guy and hasn’t physically been to the sites.

“I can only imagine it’s because we’ve had a reasonably high turnover of staff.”

Town councillors expressed concern over the arrangement, with Warwick Lovegrove saying: “It’s rather sad because we like to have local planning.”

The borough council’s interim executive director of residents’ services Tom Payne said: “Like many planning authorities all over the country, the planning development team at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has faced significant challenges over the past few years.

“Our focus has been to reduce the number of applications in the system and to increase the speed at which they are determined.

“In relation to resourcing, we have taken several steps to do this including working with external consultants who have provided a number of planning officers from various areas to deal with householder and minor planning applications.

“Applications are processed and assessed in the same way as any other application and these case officers are contactable in the same way as any other case officer.

“This short term action has significantly reduced the time taken to determine such applications to the benefit of applicants using our service, while longer term solutions are actioned.”

Concerns were also raised in the meeting about the lack of enforcement over broken conditions in developments.

Town councillor Sue Mullen said the borough council’s enforcement team “don’t seem to actually do much enforcing".

“They might go out and visit, but they don’t seem to follow up and do anything useful even when conditions have definitely been broken,” she said.

Mrs Carruthers responded: “I agree it’s frustrating in terms of the precedent it sets as well, but unfortunately that’s the system it is at the moment.”



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