Planning comes under the spotlight of mainland officials

·2-min read
Planning comes under the spotlight of mainland officials
Planning comes under the spotlight of mainland officials

AN INDEPENDENT review into whether the Isle of Wight Council's planning system works (or doesn't) is being conducted by mainland officials.

It comes after allegations of mistreatment were levelled at the council's planning committee in the past few months.

The council's planning department will be scrutinised this week when members of the Local Government Association (LGA) visit the authority to undertake a peer review.

The review will provide a 'critical friend's view of the authority's weaknesses and opportunities', the LGA says.

It will be at no cost to the council.

Both the cabinet member for planning, Cllr Paul Fuller, and a council spokesperson said the review was part of the council's corporate plan, which was approved in October last year.

It sets out a commitment to review, enhance and improve the planning department and see how it can improve outcomes and adhere to statutory obligations.

At a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee for neighbourhoods and regeneration earlier this month, it was said the review was requested by the former chief executive, John Metcalfe.

Before Mr Metcalfe left, problems in the planning department had reached a head and it was felt there was a need for an independent review.

At a planning committee meeting in March, Cllr Geoff Brodie said he had had conversations with council officers who were "deeply concerned over their health and wellbeing in the light of the way in which they are being treated by members of this council."

In a question to the council leader, Cllr Brodie elaborated further that some officers were 'living in fear of the sustained public attacks on their services and advice'.

Councillors have had their say in what they would like included in the review.

Speaking at the scrutiny meeting earlier this month, Cllr Chris Quirk, a former chair of the planning committee, said one of the biggest things not working in the department is the planning committee.

He said councillors from across the chamber were coming to decision making meetings with preconceived ideas, which was not how the committee should work.

The LGA's specialist team will look at documents and interview a range of key planning stakeholders including councillors, officers and outside bodies over three days this week.

At the end of the review, the team will report back to the council's cabinet later this year. An action plan will then be implemented to address the recommendations.

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