Waverley Borough Council has announced it will launch its re-designed Pre-application Advice Service on 1 July. This helps applicants prior to submission of their planning application by providing information about the application process and advice on how complete the application. It can speed up the process by reducing the need for officers to write to the applicant for clarification or further information and helping ensure that potential applicants are aware of the policies and other considerations that will be applied to their proposals.
The new system offers three levels of service, designed to suit a range of applicants, from homeowner right up to major developers. The council says it has also streamlined its internal processes, meaning that applications can be determined more quickly. The Waverley planning service has struggled with capacity issues over the last 18 months, as a national shortage of qualified planners has led to serious problems recruiting officers into the team. This was exacerbated by the ‘lockdown bounce’ increasing the number of planning applications being submitted and teething troubles with the launch of a new planning IT system. This led the council to suspend the Pre-application Advice Service altogether between May 2021 and November 2021 to free up staff to help address the backlog of planning applications.
Waverley Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economic Development, Councillor Liz Townsend, said: “Like nearly all local planning authorities, we have struggled with resourcing issues within the planning team in recent years, and there were serious issues with the implementation of our new IT system. However, the IT system is now working well and is a definite improvement over the system it replaced.
“We have also been working very hard behind the scenes on reviewing our processes to improve the quality and efficiency of our work. Our new Pre-application Advice Service is another step on that path and will help reduce the amount of work required to process applications whilst giving applicants advice on how to give their proposals a greater chance of being found acceptable. We’re also introducing different service levels and timescales for advice to be given, so fees can more closely reflect the actual cost of providing the service and we end the situation where Council Taxpayers effectively subsidise the service for major developers.
“I’m pleased to say that we’ve already made great progress at speeding up the time taken to process applications and reducing the backlog that has built up during the pandemic, with further good news to come over the next few months.”
Full information and contact details can be found at www.waverley.gov.uk/Pre-App.