People seeking planning permission are being left in limbo by Chichester District Council, according to a Midhurst-based accountant.
Bernard Bayly, of Bayly and Co, phoned the council’s planning office recently to check the status of a planning application submitted in July, and was told the council had not begun putting the applications made in June into the system yet.
“It’s outrageous,” he said.
“The fact they have not notified the applicants of the delay means many people don’t even know their application hasn’t been registered in the system yet.”
After speaking to the council’s planning office, Mr Bayly added the reason given for the delay was that there had been IT problems on the South Downs National Park Authority’s website, which had led to Chichester District Council planners being unable to process plans.
He has also expressed concern at the knock-on effect the delay could have on businesses in the district, with planning applications that were initially seen as fairly straightforward now being held up, and proposed building work potentially needing to be postponed.
He said there had been no active effort by the planning office to get in touch with applicants and let them know there had been a delay.
He added: “Why has it taken the intervention of the press to get this situation into the public domain?
“There has been no information given to the applicants as to why their applications are not processed.”
Former Rogate district councillor Nigel Johnson-Hill is one of the many people whose planning application, which he submitted in June, is yet to be resolved.
He said: “It’s the fact the turnaround from application to result used to be six weeks, got extended to eight weeks, and now, after eight weeks, you’re lucky if you’re given a reference number.”
He agreed with Mr Bayly that the inability to plan in the future is not only detrimental to the people making the applications, but also to those further along in the building process.
“In a simple application with the expectation of permission, some people engage builders to do the work,” he said.
“These are local builders and I have had to go back and say ‘I’m sorry I have no idea when I need you to start’.
“They have made their plans around me. I am letting them down and I feel bad about that.
“For all I know, building work is pretty scarce in the area and you could get people being laid off.”
A spokesperson on behalf of Chichester District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority said: “There has been a severe problem in the validation and registration of planning applications.
“This position is completely unacceptable to both the council and the South Downs National Park Authority and we apologise for any inconvenience that has been caused.
“We would like to reassure everyone that both authorities are urgently doing all they can to try and restore normal service.
“We are pleased to say the immediate IT issues have been resolved and we hope the backlog will soon be cleared.
“The highest levels of management and councillors at both authorities have met to look at this problem.
“An action plan has been prepared and agreed by both authorities, including the use of additional resources to remove the backlog of applications.
“Staff are working hard to return the service to normality, and we would ask you to bear with us for a short while longer.”
To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Observer (Thursday, September 6 edition).