Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Quicker Isn't Always Better

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Quicker Isn't Always Better

Article excerpt

STEVE Mason's attempt to justify Northumberland County Council's plans to centralise the planning control system ("Why we have to plan for change" March 2) is misleading.

Anyone who reads the reports from Planning Officers Services Enterprises (Pose), which, supposedly, informs the planning review, will find that the main criticisms are of leadership, management and process rather than the performance of area committees and local councils.

Historic excuses are not acceptable. The Pose management report notes: "While there could be an argument that reorganisation with the amalgamation of seven authorities would be disruptive and have an initial negative impact on service, this would not account for the continuing poor performance".

The Pose report on planning committees criticises poor organisation and management and inefficient use of officer time. It also points out that nearly all comparable unitary planning authorities - most smaller and less diverse than Northumberland - use area committees.

This does not prevent them from achieving much better performance figures than NCC. Rather than abolishing area committees on the basis of inadequate evidence, NCC should improve their organisation and management.

Only last year NCC agreed the Northumberland Town and Parish Council Charter which states that: "It is essential that NCC and T&PCs work together when making decisions to shape services and policies that affect Northumberland communities. In order for this to be effective, engagement needs to be a genuine two way listening process; positive and constructive and built upon a foundation of trust". And, "Northumberland County Council will Consult T&PCs as statutory consultees in planning, licensing and highways matters".

Now NCC intends to remove statutory consultee status. Local councils strongly dispute dubious claims that they are to blame for NCC's poor planning performance.

Mr Mason fails to mention the Brackenside case, highlighted in the Deloitte report. …

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