Agenda item

Enforcement Strategy Publication Version


The Committee were provided with the Planning Enforcement Strategy for Gravesham 2022 and the Assistant Director (Planning) sought comments from Members.


The Assistant Director (Planning) advised that the Strategy took into account Members comments made on an earlier draft at the December 2021 Strategic Environment Cabinet Committee meeting. The document had been sent to Digital Team to make it 100% accessible and following any additional Member comments it would be signed off in due course by the Portfolio Holder and published on the Councils website.


Members made the following suggestions to the Strategy:


  • There were a multitude of complex legal terms in the document which members of the public and Members may find hard to understand; a short glossary of terms should be added to the Strategy and published to the website alongside the Strategy as well as links to definitions of certain terminology
  • Section 16 referenced violence towards officers but that paragraph should be amended to include violence towards Members as well. In addition, the paragraph should link to the Councils corporate policies that advise what would happen if someone committed violence towards an officer/Member and the consequences of those actions
  • The Strategy needed to be more widely publicised to the public rather than just published on the website as well as shared to the Councils planning agent forum


In response to the suggestions, the Assistant Director (Planning) explained that:


  • Use of technical terms had been flagged by Members previously and Officers had tried to be much clearer about what terms meant and the different stages in the strategy so that people wouldn’t be misled. The intention was that an FAQ document would be created and published alongside the Strategy on the Councils website; the FAQ document would hopefully answer all of the publics questions and explain any confusing aspects of the Strategy. The Assistant Director (Planning) noted the suggestion to provide links to definitions of certain terminology
  • The Assistant Director was happy for the paragraph to be extended to Members as well; violence towards Members had been discussed previously especially around Planning Committee and Members addresses being published when they submitted planning applications to the Committee. Legal had been contacted to see what measures could be implemented to better protect officers and Members during the planning process. The Assistant Director (Planning) advised that she would need to check if links could be used to the corporate policy documents as it could cause accessibility issues on the document, but the Strategy could definitely reference the policy
  • The Assistant Director (Planning) advised that the Strategy would be 100% accessible and would be advertised on all Council social media platforms as well as the website. In addition, a section of the upcoming ‘Your Borough’ magazine had been allocated to the advertisement of the Strategy and notification of the new Strategy would be  attached to the bottom of all Planning Officers emails which were regularly sent to applicants/agents. The Strategy would also be promoted to local legal firms that dealt with conveyancing so all parties would be aware of the Strategy  


Cllr Craske raised concern over the format of the Strategy and the difficulty it caused trying to read the Strategy on an iPad screen.


Cllr Hills and Cllr Lane were happy with the document but raised concerns that any planning enforcement would be implemented as there were a number of sites such as the Battle of Britain and the Old Gurdwara which had fallen into disrepair but hadn’t received any enforcement action.


The Chair explained that the Battle of Britain site owners had been served repeated section 215 notices which ordered the occupants to clear away all of the rubble and tidy up the site within a set time period. The Chair advised that the document paired well with the aforementioned ‘Design Code’ and was a very proactive document which set out the Councils intentions with regards to planning enforcement and set out the rules that agents/applicants needed to follow. The Chair informed the Committee of examples of recent planning enforcement actions that led to convictions in the courts.   


The Assistant Director added that the Council went further than what the Government expected of them with regards to Planning Enforcement; for example, the Council always sought retrospective planning applications on sites that had built without planning permission which didn’t always go the right way with the Planning Inspector.


The Assistant Director (Planning) explained that the Planning Team prided itself on the low number of cases that had required formal action as formal action was expensive and took a significant amount of time to process. The Planning Team received a much better response rate on retroactive applications than if enforcement was pursued.


To better show the Planning Teams performance, the Assistant Director (Planning) explained that the team were looking at creating a different pack of performance indicators which showed Members how many cases had been opened but weren’t’ considered breaches and how successful the team had been  in closing cases. There were some issues with the IDOX software which made it difficult to report on those performance statistics, but the team would work with Members and officers to formalise those indicators in the future. The Assistant Director (Planning) summed up that generally, the Planning Team closed as many cases as were open, of which there were a lot of open cases. 


The Chair thanked the Committee for their comments.


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