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The planning backlog at Cheshire East Council is double what it usually is and most applications are taking four to six months to determine, according to a council report.

The last two planning meetings – northern planning scheduled for June 8 and strategic planning which should have been held on June 15 – were both cancelled with no official reason given.

A report on the annual performance, due to be considered at an environment and communities committee, says pre-application services have been suspended since the start of 2021 for all but major proposals.

The report states: “The planning service has been under pressure for several years, with a consistently high level of demand and challenges in retaining and recruiting resources.

“During 2020 a significant backlog of planning applications started to build up as productivity and recruitment was further disrupted by the pandemic.

“The backlog peaked at 2,882 in October 2021 but only marginally reduced to 2,654 at the end of March 2022.

“This is double the normal level of around 1,300 and has had an impact on the capacity of planning officers to engage effectively with customers.

“The calendar year of 2021 saw an 11 per cent increase in all applications compared with the previous year with notable increases in submissions of smaller householder and prior approval applications.”

It continues: “The percentage of applications determined within eight weeks for non-major applications has reduced to 81%. However, this includes applicants/agents who agree to one or more extensions to time.

“Most applications are actually taking four to six months to determine. This has led to a large volume of ‘failure demand’ chasing progress.”

Complaints about delays and lack of communication regarding the planning department have increased.

The council has employed an external company, Capita, to help with the backlog.

“The contract has been in place since September 2021 and ,so far, their officers have determined over 500 applications out of 850 allocated to them, the majority of which are householder applications,” states the report, adding the contract covers up to 1,000 applications and has been extended for a further period.

The council is still struggling to recruit its own staff and currently has six vacancies in the planning applications team.

The report continues: “Notwithstanding the pressures on the planning service, it continues to approve significant strategic developments in accordance with development plan policies to ensure they are sensitive to their surroundings but also achieving good sustainability.

“Key strategic housing/mixed use developments at Basford, Leighton, and employment sites in Middlewich have been approved.

“Significant progress has been made in bringing forward both residential and employment sites at North Congleton as a new community becomes established.

“Key sites in Crewe town centre as part of wider regeneration work have now also begun with the Royal Arcade site receiving planning approval.”

A deep dive review of the planning service is currently being undertaken to identify ways to reduce the backlog and a verbal report on that is due to presented at Friday’s meeting.

The environment and communities committee meeting takes place on Friday July 1 at 10.30am at the council’s HQ at Sandbach.

One Comment

  1. So, from what I’m reading, they are giving priority to the large scale commercial housing developments by national developers that local residents don’t want but which keep the coffers at County Hall topped up while actual local residents may have to wait six months or more to get approval for an extension or to get a tree cut. Seems about right for CE abnd their focus on residents and council tax payers.

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