a) Notice of Motion from Councillor Luggar to Full Council on 7th April 2021 in relation to voting procedures (attached).
b) Minute Extract of Full Council held on 7th April 2021 (attached).
c) Enforcement Procedures and Policy Practices In Relation to Environmental Enhancement and Protection. Report by Development Management Service Manager (attached).
The Committee considered a Notice of Motion from Councillor Luggar to Full Council on 7th April 2021 in relation to enforcement procedures and policy practices in relation to environmental enhancement and protection (circulated previously) together with minute extract of Full Council held on 7th April 2021 (circulated previously).
Councillor Luggar addressed the Committee and explained the intention of his notice of motion to Full Council was to promote and ensure further protection of established trees and hedgerows on green field development sites. He added that it was important to secure biodiversity gain on such sites and ensure that architectural designs adhered to the existing natural habitat in the protection and retention of those unique environments.
During the consideration of the Notice of Motion, the Committee raised and discussed the following points:
Agreed that the retention of trees and hedges in principal. However, on some residential developments there were trees that that were not maintained and were blocking light and their shallow root system had caused damage to pavements.
That a professional tree surgeon should be involved in the planning application process to ensure that any existing trees were properly assessed prior to any applications for residential developments being granted and that clauses should be included in planning permissions to state that trees and hedges should be maintained.
That the appropriate trees were planted on developments to ensure that they were deep rooted and not shallow rooted, utilising better environmental schemes to benefit the redevelopment of the area.
Acknowledged that for very old established trees that their carbon capture was minimal in comparison to newly planted trees, which would provide a greater benefit to the environment.
The Committee considered a report by the Development Management Service Manager (circulated previously) regarding enforcement procedures and policy practices in relation to environmental enhancement and protection.
The Development Management Service Manager advised that officers were currently reviewing existing planning processes to ensure greater efficiency of the enforcement process. The Council published a Compliance and Monitoring Plan in December 2020, which had a review date of December 2022. An Enforcement process review had recently been undertaken with recommendations made to the Senior Management Team, with plans to be implemented in July/August 2021. A further review had been recommended to ensure that the proposed service changes were effective and also enable further service improvements as part of the cycle of continuous improvement.
Following the adoption and publication of the plan, a service review had been undertaken and key outcomes identified, these were:
Allocation of additional resources to enable the employment of two ‘compliance apprentices’.
Standardisation of reporting requests for enforcement action through the use of ‘firm step’.
Identification of software development needs to better manage enforcement case handling.
Increased accountability and decision making for Enforcement Officers.
Decrease in delays waiting instructions from other Officers.
Further service improvement actions had also been identified, these were:
A full correspondence review to ensure consistency, plain English and effectiveness.
Increased autonomy for Enforcement Officer decision making.
Review of delegated powers for signing-off Enforcement Notices / Prosecution actions.
Introduction of satisfaction surveys for ‘the process’ to a random sample, to gauge successes and / or drive future improvements.
Introduction of regular forums with Enforcement Officers and Planning Officers, to discuss any lessons learnt, promote consistency and ensure proportionality.
Introduce and refine Enforcement Notice online tracker.
Periodically attend Parish and Town Council meetings, to foster and develop positive relationships.
In response to the points raised, the Development Management Service Manager advised that developers were implementing biodiversity with the majority of applications requiring a Landscape Environmental Management Plan together with the appropriate wording of legal agreements to ensure that enforcement could be implemented should any requirements of the application be breeched.
In response to a question regarding the protection of a tree and how such a decision was reached, the Development Management Service Manager advised that every planning application that included an existing tree would require an Arboriculturalassessment to ascertain in conjunction with the Council’s Arboricultural Officer to agree whether or not a tree required a Tree Protection Order (TPO).
The Council had agreed to employ two new compliance apprentices in order to address an identified lack of capacity within the strategic development and planning service, with the intention to fill those posts by September 2021. As part of a proposed restructure the existing planning enforcement officers and proposed would be working within a new Compliance and Education team.
In response to a number of questions, the Development Management Service Manager advised the following:
There were still elements of the planning service that the Council were unable to put online due to privacy restrictions etc.
The service was looking to introduce zero tolerance. So, if the applicant refuses to co-operate, an enforcement notice would be issued.
The option of allowing the public to upload photos etc to the planning tracker would be explored further.
The digitalisation of the planning service was a complex process and would take some time to implement.
That Full Council note the measures set out in the existing Compliance and Monitoring Plan along with the allocation of additional staff resource and implementation of revised processes and proposed re-structuring of services and formation of a new Compliance and Education team; and
That a further joint review of Compliance Procedures and Policy Practices to address the corporate environment priority was undertaken within the proposed Council structure by the Head of Environmental Enhancement, Head of Planning, Housing and Health and the proposed Compliance and Education team as part of the next round of annual service planning.
The Committee thanked the Development Management Service Manager and the Planning service for their continued hard work in delivering the planning process.