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Cheshire East Council is “slowly reducing” the backlog of planning applications despite still struggling to retain and recruit skilled staff, writes Belinda Ryan.

A report to the council’s environment and communities committee says the number of live applications in the backlog has reduced over the 12 month period from 2,654 to 1,959, at the end of March 2023.

And latest figures show the number of major applications determined within 13 weeks or the agreed time in 2022/3 was 97% compared to 96% the previous year.

The number of non-major applications determined within eight weeks or the agreed time was 84% – which is 3% up on the previous year.

The report, which is due to considered on Thursday, states: “Although slowly reducing, the backlog of planning applications persists which continues to affect normal time-frames for determination.”

It says despite the number falling to 1,959, “the normal level of live applications is approximately 1,300 so continues to impact upon customer service”.

The number of applications submitted during the 2022/3 financial year dropped by 20% compared to the previous year.

But the report says: “Although application numbers have dropped, in common with national trends, Cheshire East continues to be the busiest planning authority in the North West region and in the top 10 nationally for planning applications.”

The council acknowledges there has been significant challenges to retain and recruit skilled staff to meet statutory requirements.

But it says despite this the team has helped with the delivery of significant development sites on allocated land in Cheshire East.

The report says: “This has enabled large employment development and job creation in Middlewich, Wardle, Holmes Chapel and residential developments at Poynton, Macclesfield and Wilmslow, providing both market and affordable homes for the future.”

It says the mixed-use strategic allocation around Congleton continues to evolve with employment sites now coming forward.

The service has also facilitated smaller regeneration schemes in Crewe for Lyceum Square, the new history centre and public realm works on the existing library site, and school extensions to meet special needs expansion.

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