Eden could be stripped of its planning powers

Date: Friday 25th May 2018

EDEN Council is waiting to hear if it is to be placed in special measures by the Government after losing a series of planning appeals.

The Ministry of Housing, Com-munities and Local Government warned the council earlier this year that it was at risk of the reprimand after the authority refused seven solar farm applications during 2015-16, decisions that were later overturned on appeal.

If the council is put in special measures, it could be stripped of its powers to decide planning applications. Applicants would be allowed to have them decided by the Bristol-based Planning Inspectorate, rather than the council.

It could also result in a substantial loss of income for the authority from planning application fees. Since 2014-15, the council has brought in £60,000 from pre-application advice alone.

The council has replied to the letter from the ministry but is still awaiting a final decision. Its planning committee was given an update by planning services development manager Nick Atkinson, who said: “We were written to advising that we were at risk of special measures. We have sent a response back making the case why we shouldn’t be.” Mr Atkinson said that since 2014 the council’s planning team had shown an “upwards improvement in performance” and, despite staffing challenges, it was a “well performing department”.

Figures for 2017-18 show that in every quarter the council achieved a 100 per cent target for deciding major applications within the 13-week timeframe. The national target is 60 per cent. It also achieved a 94 per cent rate for deciding minor applications within eight weeks, when the national target is 70 per cent.