Chief Executive says his Planning department is not very good

Bournemouth Echo

BCP Council’s planning department is ‘not very good’ chief executive Graham Farrant has admitted.

And the frank assessment of its performance has come as it is revealed the council is now hiring temporary senior planning officers on a consultancy basis from others parts of the country to help with the problems in the department.

Some have been taken on through the controversial outsourcing firm and government contractor Capita.

At least one officer lives in London and will come down to the area to carry out site

The move is an indication of the dire straits the planning department is in, as the backlog of applications grows.

Senior staff at BCP have assured concerned councillors that the arrangement should not be a problem in terms of the quality of decision making, local knowledge or expertise.

The precise costs have not been revealed.

A number of developers, architects and planning consultants, as well as elected members are increasingly frustrated at the slow progress of many applications at a time when the construction industry needs to get moving again.

The chairman of BCP’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Steve Bartlett said the performance of the department was “not good” and was a particular problem for major development proposals.

He added: “The council has been looking at recruiting extra staff and a committee has been formed to take action on the overall situation.

“The whole issue came to O&S two months ago and I have called it back in another few months to ensure progress is being made.”

At the recent annual meeting of Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council, Mr Farrant responded to criticism from members of the public.

He said: “What we have done is take three not very good small planning departments from the three old councils and turn them into one large, not very good planning department.”

But the council was working hard to resolve the problems he added.

BCP Council spokesperson said: “There is a shortage of qualified planning officers available locally and nationally and BCP Council is currently looking at how it can attract skilled people to the area to fill current vacancies.null

“As an interim measure we have used the council’s recruitment framework Comensura as well as Capita to employ temporary planning officers to support key work processing a range of planning applications. “As we are all based at home currently and will not be returning to a traditional office based model of working, it has given us the opportunity to look further afield to ensure we are getting best value for money.

“The cost to the council is only a little more than employing direct.”