It appears that Croydon’s planning service has been going through a crisis.
This is the explanation by Cabinet member Alison Butler.
‘I appreciate and acknowledge that there has been a recent dip in the time taken to determine planning applications. This has been due to a number of factors; an increasing number of planning applications being submitted to the Council for determination, the departure of a number of key staff leaving the service and the introduction of a new IT operating system to process applications.
In replacing staff, the service has experienced difficulties recruiting high calibre town planners. This is currently an issue across many London Boroughs with a shortage of appropriately trained and skilled people. In response, a retention and recruitment campaign was devised and this has been far more successful than previous recruitment rounds and has also successfully retained staff in the face of alternative employment offers.
A number of new staff have now been offered positions and these are now working their notice period with existing employers. To address the time lag before our permanent staff can take up positions, a targeted approach around agency staff recruitment has enabled us to secure an enhanced calibre of experienced staff who have provided immediate relief and brought individual caseloads down. An increased decision rate is now flowing through, although it will be a few more weeks for the full effect to be felt.
The new Uniform IT system brings significant improvement to the former outdated platform, it does however take time to bed down; for information to be transitioned from one system to another and for glitches to be resolved. This, along with case officers having to learn their way round the new system has slowed down working output. However benefits are being realised which should allow a much enhanced service going forward.
Development Management Service will shortly have a full complement of staff and we are also looking at a range of service changes on a day to day basis, to ensure we operate as effectively and efficiently as possible and to optimise the new IT investment. We anticipate our previous level of service will soon be resumed and I apologise to anyone who has been inconvenienced.’
Answer to Councillor Question posted on Council website 21 October.