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West Berkshire is slowest on planning applications

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Time target for decisions by district council is missed in 94 per cent of minor planning cases

WEST Berkshire Council is the slowest in the country when it comes to responding to planning applications for minor developments.

Government figures show that the council missed the target of responding within eight weeks in 94 per cent of cases between January and March 2011. This is the highest percentage in England and is far above than the national average of 28 per cent.

For major developments, constituting more than 10 dwellings or properties larger than 0.5 hectares in size, West Berkshire Council did not fare much better, missing the target of responding within 13 weeks 84 per cent of the time.

Newbury businessman Chris Radcliffe said that he was shocked by the extent of the problem. He applied for the change of use an industrial property in Hambridge Road in order to employ 14 people in a new hair salon and training school in mid-February. He should have had a result back within eight weeks, but was not granted permission until May 19.

Asked if he thought the department should incur a financial penalty, Mr Radcliffe said: "If they penalise the department then we will just end up getting charged for their incompetence, but that department does need looking into."

He added that the planners seemed to get a move on once a story had appeared in Newburytoday.co.uk's sister publication, the Newbury Weekly News.

Council spokesman Keith Ulyatt said: "Last year, we had the highest number of planning applications ever, a total of 3,100. As a result, we have a backlog still to be processed. We have recruited temporary planning officers to help deal with the workload and in April and May

validated more applications than we received, so we are catching up."

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