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Pembrokeshire planners ‘amongst top performing in Wales’

Outside Pembrokeshire County Council's County Hall, Haverfordwest

PEMBROKESHIRE’S planning service performance has increased significantly, becoming one of the best performing authorities in Wales last year, a council scrutiny committee heard.

At the January 16 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s services overview and scrutiny committee, members were asked to scrutinise progress of the planning service since the previous meeting of January 2023.

In a report presented by Cabinet Member for Planning & Housing Delivery Cllr Jon Harvey, members heard significant improvements had been made despite a pressure on senior officers due to interim arrangements as a result of reduced resource at senior officer level.

Cllr Jon Harvey – Cabinet Member for Planning & Housing Delivery (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cllr Harvey told members there is currently 241 live (valid) planning applications, down from 333 in December, the proportion of applications being determined within eight weeks rising from 42 per cent in December 2022 to 82 per cent in December 2023, the second-best of Wales 22 local authorities.

Cllr Harvey cited a report for members which said: “The most recent Welsh Government statistics (July-September 2023) show that the ‘all-Wales’ average for determining planning applications within agreed timescales was 86 per cent. For this same period, Pembrokeshire County Council was the best performing Local Planning Authority in Wales determining 98 per cent of applications within agreed timescales.”

It added: “Since January 2023 Pembrokeshire County Council has been within the top five performing local planning authorities in Wales for determining applications on time (i.e. within agreed timescales) and within the top two best performing local planning authorities within Wales for determining applications within eight weeks.

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“Throughout 2023 Pembrokeshire County Council has consistently performed above the ‘all-Wales’ averages in both respects.”
Cllr Harvey told members that planning applications had increased the number of affordable homes in the county, with (in 2021-22) 21 secured by Section 106 agreements or by planning conditions and 100 affordable houses delivered, along with a further 68 secured and 85 delivered in 2022-’23.

Members also heard 13 appeals had been made council planning decisions; 11 of them upheld by Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW).

Another issue raised was the subject of retrospective applications, members hearing an estimated 10-15 per cent of applications fell under the definition, with more breaches being identified by officers.

On the issue of planning enforcement, Cllr Harvey told members there was “a big push” to reduce numbers, currently at 255 live cases, down from 367 in December 2022 and 418 in September 2022.

Councillor Rhys Jordan asked if more could be done to publicise any enforcement actions, saying: “The perception in public is we don’t enforce and people get away with it, I know that’s not the case and you know that’s not the case; the more people that know about it the less problems we have.”

Cllr Harvey agreed a joint ‘stick and carrot’ model may help, with publicity making people “think twice,” or being more aware of planning conditions.