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.
- 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: Here: More wannabe residents on their way to join the largest concentration of gipsies in the country?
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?