Conwy, North Wales...‘Developers know short-staffed council can’t monitor every planning issue’

The council usually lets developers get away with murder anyway, it's the Historians, Conservationists, and Members of the public they are harsh with!

Also as previously stated it is alleged that some of the staff at planning at the council work for many of the developers on the side, so there are those strong links there!

Developers know Conwy’s overworked planning enforcement team is struggling to carry out proper checks, a concerned councilor claimed

And Conwy’s cabinet member for housing admitted that budget restrictions meant planning enforcement officers could not monitor every development.

It then emerged that the team of two full-time and one part-time member of staff was dealing with 170 planning enforcement cases.

Consequently, developers know Conwy simply can’t cope and that many enforcement issues will go unchecked.

The revelation came after Cllr Paul Luckock put a question to the cabinet member for housing and regulatory Cllr Emily Owen.

He said: “My understanding is that there is a small team of two and a half planning enforcement officers, which also includes a conservation officer and a part-time tree officer.

“The line manager for the small team is one of the planning enforcement officers who also have a caseload of 60 plus cases.

“There are 170 enforcement cases active now. My understanding is that developers and builders know there is no or very limited cross-checking between planning permissions and building control; it is a disorganized and unrestricted situation.

“What policy decisions have been taken since May 2022 to tackle the shortcomings in planning enforcement?”

Cabinet member for housing Cllr Emily Owen admitted there was currently no solution.

“Firstly you are right as regards the capacity of the planning enforcement team,” she said.

“As with most departments, all departments, over the last 10 years, the team has significantly diminished. as a result of the budgetary reductions, which has ultimately impacted on staffing levels.

“In previous years in Conwy, there have been around six enforcement officers in the post, but even then, there weren’t enough officers to monitor every single development in Conwy because, as you can imagine, there are quite a lot of them.“There are also staff shortages in the planning team at the moment, so our enforcement team is often pulled away in order to help with that pressure too.

“The situation at present is that planning enforcement provides a very reactive service where they are only able to deal with complaints, but they do so as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“You are not far off with your numbers – with two and a half officers having 170 active cases between them, and as you have rightly pointed out, that is a huge case-load for those officers to juggle, and concerns in regard to planning enforcement workload have been raised as an issue during those service performance reviews over the last few years; however, I do want to stress that the team is working tirelessly as they did all the way through COVID. This is not a case of the team not doing enough.

“It is purely a budget and capacity issue. All these factors have happened over a number of years that pre-date our arrival on the council.

“I must warn you that, given the bleak budgetary situation that we’ve got at the moment, this isn’t going to get better any time soon.”

She added: “In order to resolve the situation, which I must say is similar across all departments – this isn’t just this particular department here – we need some serious investment in public services so we’ve got the capacity to deliver a much more proactive service across the council. Given what’s happening at the national level at the moment, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to if you think that’s a priority for our current government.”

Cllr Luckock then said he feared council staff was at risk of burnout, but he was told it was unlikely staff from other departments could be retrained or redeployed as every department was struggling.