Apology from South Downs National Park over planning gaffe after complaints from Midhurst and Petworth councils

An apology has been issued by the South Downs National Park authority after it was flooded with complaints from parish councils throughout the Midhurst and Petworth area over its new system for informing them of planning applications.

In a letter to all town and parish council clerks in the national park, director of planning Tim Slaney has apologised for providing a sub-standard service and pledged to make improvements.

Under the previous system administered by Chichester District Council weekly lists of new planning applications were issued in alphabetical order.

In addition the district council issued a second list detailing whether applications had been permitted, refused or withdrawn.

Now the national park issues one weekly list of new planning applications, but not in alphabetical order.

Clerks have complained they are forced to spend their time scrolling through dozens of applications to ensure they find all those relevant to them.

They also complain they are no longer told whether applications have been permitted or refused and have no knowledge of those withdrawn which they then waste time discussing.

In addition they say they now have only 21 days to make comments instead of the original 28 from Chichester District Council.

This means some applications may have to go before special meetings if they cannot wait for scheduled parish planning committees.

Tim Slaney, director of planning for the South Downs National Park said: “We’ve been working in partnership with planning authorities to develop a single process for registering and processing planning applications across the National Park.

“For Chichester District Council this has meant introducing the new system. We are working closely with them to minimise disruption and delays as well as meeting with representative parish councils to understand their needs and improve our service.”