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LETTER: Here’s the real reason Fenland Council planning hit crisis point

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I read your article about the planning crisis at Fenland District Council with interest, writes a CambsNews reader.

A good friend of mine works for Fenland Council so I have had a bit of an inside track on things and spoken to them again this weekend.

What your article didn’t talk about was why staff have been leaving FDC and what some of the pressures the department is facing really are.

It’s nothing to do with Peterborough but the answer is councillors.

Apparently three or four years ago the department was doing really well with its performance and was one of the best in the country.

Then since the last elections the councillors have got involved.

They have wanted to take more applications to the committee which causes more work for planners.

And then they have been granting about two thirds of those that officers have recommended for refusal.

According to my friend the councillors want to grant anything and are often ignoring policy and guidelines when granting applications and even ignoring their own decisions.

It sounds to me like the councillors are out of control. This has had two outcomes:

1:  People have seen all this and are submitting applications knowing if they get them to the planning committee, they have a good chance of the councillors granting them.

This causes more work for the planners as lots of applications are being made and then there’s lots of work to go to committee.

The rules about what has to go to the committee are apparently really loose so if you know your application is wrong you can get six friends to support it and it has to go!

Also, the planners can’t refuse anything now without it going to the committee chairman who can say it has to go to the committee.

2- Seeing the decisions that councillors are making and the effects of this have left a lot of the planners fed up and not wanting to work at FDC.

I am told that nearly all of the staff that have left in the last two years have said that’s why there leaving.

I thought you could be interested in this view on what is really going on.

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

Fenland

FOOTNOTE:

Two days ago, I reported that four vacancies are being advertised as Fenland District Council struggles to come to terms with the decision by Peterborough City Council to remove shared planning services.

Fenland is looking for a senior development manager, senior planning enforcement officer, principal planning officer and assistant planning enforcement officer to join the council.

Cllr Dee Laws, portfolio holder for planning, described the split as a “bombshell” at a recent meeting of Fenland Council when she indicated the separation was on the cards.

One source within Fenland Council told me: “Fenland District Council planning is failing performance standards for application. It is unlikely to improve and most like the department in special measures by the end of the year. Not that members have been told – yet.”

Peterborough City Council told Fenland Council last December that the split was likely and in fact it came about on March 31 “as specifically set out in a written agreement which both councils had signed”.

The city council said its decision followed a review of its own planning department.

“One of our main priorities moving forward is reviewing Peterborough’s Local Plan, ensuring that the city’s key development needs, including new homes and employment opportunities, can be met,” the city council said in a statement.

 

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