Is ‘Your Waverley’s new leader facing his first major challenge?

Getting his ailing council’s planning function to fire on all four cylinders?


For months now the wheels of Waverley’s planning department have been grinding ever more slowly and are now at the point where, if they go any slower, they’ll shudder to a halt!

With most officers and councillors all working from home – because of the Pandemic, don’t ya know! – Waverley residents, who are paying their gold-plated salaries, are getting short shrift for their munificence.  But Council Tax Payer patience – with virtual meetings, empty offices and staff popping out to collect their little ones from school in the middle of the working day – is now stretched so thin it’s practically threadbare.

• Pre-application meetings between residents and developers have been put on hold for three months! Not back until August/September.


• The new Horizon planning system – yep, you did read that right, it’s from the same stable as the publically disgraced and derided system which brought Royal Mail into disrepute and saw dozens of law-abiding sub-postmasters and mistresses sent to jail for crimes they didn’t commit – has played havoc with Waverley’s planning portal. Will it or won’t it work today?  Will it or won’t it work tomorrow …, next week, next month, next year? is the question on the lips of everyone who has to deal with the Godforsaken system day in, day out.  

  • Now, better late than never,  agency staff are being drafted in to make it work.
Meanwhile, planning applications are languishing for six months and longer in the deep, dark, dusty bowels of The Burys:
  • But anyone fed up with waiting can demand their application fees back.
• It’s now taking more than seven weeks for planning applications to be registered! and applicants are shouting – why are we waiting?

• The weekly planning lists have become practically non-existent! And, as if that isn’t enough to try the patience of a Saint, when questioned about the Authority’s lack of enforcement action for unauthorised development, the Chief Planning Officer’s response was, well – there’s no other word for it – frankly, quite breathtaking:

Zac Ellwood told a recent meeting of the  Overview & Scrutiny Committee that enforcement was not a statutory function of the council, and it was up to Waverley’s Executive to consider whether this was a “council priority”!   WTF?!?!

Does Mr What-The-Hell really think it’s not a “council priority” to take action against the Build it First and Ask Later Brigade? Does he seriously want Waverley Borough Council to allow every Tom, Dick and Harriet to fell ancient woodland and ride roughshod over the country’s tried and tested planning system because Waverley’s planning department has other priorities?  Does he actually want Enforcement Officers to Ignore breaches of conditions imposed with planning consents?

Might as well close the Planning Department altogether then, send the few members of the team who make it into the office, occasionally, home and tell them all to put their feet up and watch daytime TV why don’t you!  And, whilst he’s at it, he might as well post a notice on Twitter telling every would-be developer and householder that Waverley’s a planning-free zone, a planning free-for-all so that every wo/man and his dog can come along with their spade and start digging their footings without so much as a nod to their new neighbours!

You can hear the Muppet’s words for yourselves here: 

Mr What-The-Hell caveated his remarks by saying that the planning department had issued an Emergency Stop Notice and some Tree Preservation Orders on unauthorised development at Lydia Park in Alfold that very day.  Wrong place, wrong address! It is the new Irish Gipsy site next door called 1-3  Weeping Willows, and would you Adam and Eve it we posted on that in September 2019. Enough to make you weep? 

The WW wrote about it: HereMore wannabe residents on their way to join the largest concentration of gipsies in the country?

and here:

Gypsy site NO 4 Stovolds Hill, DUNSFOLD has been GRANTED.

  The fact that that particular ‘unauthorised development’ had been going on for years, right under the noses of Waverley Borough Council’s planning department, despite the cries of anguish and protestation of local residents who were desperate for Enforcement to rock up and do something about it, was neither here nor there!

So Cllr Paul Follows, now you’ve pinned on the Leader’s badge – passed onto you by former Leader and Farnham Residents’ Group Cllr John Ward, who appears to have ignored the worsening performance of the council’s planning department for months – it’s time for you to shape up or ship out the troops. Pull your officers up by their bootlaces – or their Louboutins and put the planning with a capital P back into the planning department why don’t you?

Yep – we know you’re busy – leading Godalming Town Council, Waverley Borough Council and, all the while, schlepping up to County Towers too, not to mention doing the day job!  However, it’s time to show your residents that you can and you will shake up and wake up Waverley’s hibernating Planners.

And, let’s face it, you haven’t got much time.  With the Tory-Tosser’s manifesto small print – to enshrine the right to work from home for all – getting an airing, it won’t be long before the whole country is huddled under their duvets, stretched out on their sun loungers in Ibiza (after all, working from home, means working from anywhere you can claim to have an internet connection.) 

And, if you have a hope in hell of joining up with Guildford Borough Council as per your briefing to councillors on Tuesday, or embarking on something BIG at Dunsfold – the planning system must step up a gear – and pretty damned soon?

 

27 thoughts on “Is ‘Your Waverley’s new leader facing his first major challenge?”

  1. Hi – so yes lots going on in planning of course and some of the improvements also come with a need for some time to bed in.

    We have called an all-councillor briefing for this coming Monday evening for Zac and the planning team to update us on the progress on their improvement plan and to take questions from members.

    From that I’ll of course be considering any next steps and if any further intervention that is required in the short term.

    1. You’ve been in office for over two long years now and you will of course continue to blame others for the current situation. These excuses are wearing very thin with our hard pressed tax paying residents who want to see speedy action taken to address the diabolical mis-management of our planning service.

  2. The issue here is the management and leadership of those WORKING from home. It is fairly obvious that the some staff(not all) are indeed letting their tax paying residents down and strategic directors and those elected to serve us need to urgently get to grips with the problem and not blaming the situation on others. If it can be done at town and parish level(who seem to be attending their place of work) why not at Waverley? This is plainly down to very poor management and a lack of effective leadership our residents deserve better.

    1. I do think that is an overly simplistic characterisation of the issue. Some of it may be down to working from home, but as you know that’s not our order it’s a government order to work from home if you can – and those regs have been extend. Some positives and negatives of that – but most just out of everyone’s control.

      We had a plan of action for planning that got a torpedo in the side of it due to covid as (and yes I know you don’t like this) we inherited a lot of problems that we identified needed redress.

      We have since then had the pandemic, some weird peaks and troughs in applications over the same period too have been curious. Lots of very complex planning papers for consultation from government too.

      We have also had to deal with you guys not having passed LPP2 as well and that’s be a circle we are close to squaring too.

      But as I said in my comment, post covid (as we are tentatively moving to) we need a full update on the status of the department – which is what I’ve requested for all councillors and is happening on Monday.

  3. Why aren’t the officers and Councillors back in the office? Beggars belief! If it’s ok for shop workers, hospitality workers and NHS workers to be back, what makes Councillors and local authority officers so special? I’m baffled.

      1. In defence of Waverley – this stupid Government has told everyone to get back into the Council Chamber while all their lot (MP’s) can work on Zoom. With 57 councillors in a Council Chamber where they have to self distance! Cannot be done. What Council can possibly hire large enough premises – they would probably need an old aircraft hanger at Dunsfold.

      2. We are seriously having to look at alternative venues for the full council meeting on 6th July (as the regulations were extended but we still have no legal ability to do formal council sessions remotely).

        Other than being a pain this is also a cost we then have to incur

    1. Baffled? So are we – our team are all back in the office – on the train – and getting back to normal.

      1. Many won’t be though of course. I’m not back in my office for my day job either because of the regulations (ironically I’m actually working from Waverley most days myself)

  4. When I read today’s post about Waverley’s new planning system being from the same stable as the Horizon system used by the Post Office, this rang alarm bells with me as a good friend has been waiting some number of weeks for their planning application to be processed. It also sounded a bit far fetched as the Post Office system allegedly cost over £1billion! So I did a little research, and lo and behold they do not come from the stable at all. The Post Office’s Horizon system was constructed by ICL/Fujitsu Services and the Waverley’s Horizon planning system was built by one of their own software suppliers.
    The friend who is awaiting for their planning application to be processed was informed by Waverley that extra staff had been drafted in to assist in processing the applications backlog, but that it still may take a number of weeks.

      1. Well I’m as baffled as you are. It may have been planned some time ago, but perhaps a change of name to avoid any connection between the two systems would have been appropriate?

      2. Because when you are looking at a blank screen waiting for documents to load there is absolutely no sign on the horizon when that might be.

  5. And PS, first challenge? This administration has managed to get through a pandemic, is handling Loads of legacy stuff that shouldn’t anywhere near us like Brightwells, LPP2 and now Dunsfold.

    All of which we are managing effectively.

    1. Quite right too. The current administration has worked tirelessly to deal with the Pandemic, helping businesses and individuals – and nobody can fault it for the way it has supported everyone during one of the most stressful periods in its history. As for former Cllr Edwards’ bleating. He and his colleagues Adam Taylor-Smith & Co have imposed a Big White Elephant on Farham people, and a burden on the taxpayer. One of these days someone somewhere will tell us, dumb taxpayers, just how much Blightwells has cost us. We were in Farnham when it was gridlocked again last week. Why? Because a developer can close roads without permission – simples! Does Crest Nicholson ever obey planning, highway or any other rules? Or is it a law unto itself? The previous Tory administration should be held accountable for ALL its mistakes. If it doesn’t put up and own up – we will.

  6. I am sorry but I do not understand… On the one hand you are saying that Staff need to work from home because that is the Government Guidelines – But Planning and other Exec meetings etc cannot be done on Zoom and have to be in the Council Chambers. If Planning is struggling due to this then they should all go back to the office to work like most other people have to.

    1. I agree with Denise. If the Council has reached a critical pressure point with the backlog in Planning, and it can provide a covid-safe working environment, it is within their gift to require the officers back in the office. You can’t be popular all the time if you want to get things done effectively. I imagine most are driving to work and so not having to risk public transport. Problems with planning, parking and potholes p*ss people off.

      1. Why is a department so inefficient working from home? The documents are online, the meetings can be instantaneous on Teams and you have coffee on tap – they should whizzing through applications. Are staff too busy watching Homes under the Hammer?

      2. Bunty – You have hit the nail on the head. Pot holes they are fixing (over the next 24 days) on the A281 with road signage so appalling that you are actually PARKING on the A281 a lot of the time! – More temp Traffic Lights in Bramley with big signs saying no HGV’s which all the big HGVs are ignoring I passed at least 9 at Bramley this afternoon on the other side of the Road – Does anyone ask them why? No…. I doubt it because the Haulage Companies will tell SCC that there is no other Route out!

      3. Surrey County Council won’t even know there is no other route for HGV’s – because every exercise they do is a desktop study. We heard one councillor at Surrey say they thought Alfold was in Sussex. Beam us all up Scottie – we are on the planet Zonk!

    2. So difference here is that formal sessions of council (since the temporary legislation to allow us to do so remotely lapsed) have to be in person to be a legal session. Which of course is crazy.

      But for all normal work, the regulations still require people to work from home if they are able to.

  7. This is not about working from home. Planning and particularly Enforcement have been inefficient and next to useless way before any lockdowns.

    1. Agee. Enforcement problems have been going on for donkey’s years. One minute they are kicking off on minor breaches and using the iron first to deal with the minnows – and then when there are huge breaches with major developers over they roll! But to be old by the Chief Planning Officer that Enforcement is not a statutory duty, and to infer that is not a high priority is simply incredible.

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